GCHS wins boy#8217;s consolation

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 29, 2006

AHOSKIE – It was a late Christmas present for coach Robert Norfleet and his Gates County High Red Barons……

 …but they’ll take it.

 The Albemarle 1-A Conference team notched it’s first win of the 06-07 basketball season Thursday night – three days after Christmas – as they took the consolation game of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald Holiday Classic sponsored by United Country Joe Murray Realty, 69-66, over fellow 1-A power and Tar-Roanoke Conference member, Northampton County High School -East.. 

Also like the best Christmas presents, it’s a good thing the Barons didn’t unwrap it too early, because they might’ve been staring at 0-6.  Northampton-East fought back from a 17-point third-quarter deficit only to fall short by three points at the final horn. 

In fact, the horn never sounded to end the game.  While the referees and coaches huddled at the scorer’s table with double-zeroes showing on the game-clock, a check with the timer revealed that the clock had indeed expired, and the game ended with the Rams coming up short.

Sedric Blow led the Gates County scoring with 25 points, while Hunt Lowe chipped in 14 and Dustin Briggs almost made it a trifecta in double-figures with nine. Lamar Phillips led Northampton-East with 22 and Josh Reddish contributed 21 in a losing effort.

&uot;We jumped out on ’em early&uot;, Norfleet said. &uot;And defensively, we didn’t want them to get it to the big-kid (6’-5” center James Jefferson) inside.&uot;

Gates County wasted little time sprinting out to an early lead thanks to 10 points from Lowe in the first quarter, including a pair of three-pointers to end the period, 22-8, in the Red Barons’ favor. Most of their baskets came in transition thanks to a pressing defense so frustrating to the Rams that veteran coach Don Gibbs benched all five of his starters to try and give his team a wake-up call.

The Red Barons’ defensive effort was helped with Jefferson picking up two quick fouls early in the game and having to sit out most of the first-half. He finished with nine points, all in the second half, before fouling out with 2:53 to play in the game.

Northampton made offensive adjustments after the first period, and while they were only outscored by three points in the second quarter, 20-17, they still trailed, 42-35, at the half; and it would’ve been more if not for Reddish putting up eight points to end the half.

Gates County opened the second half with another brilliant run, at one point pushing out to their largest lead of the night, 53-36, before trailing by fourteen going into the final quarter and looking like this one might’ve been over early.

But Northampton would mount a rally in the final frame, helped by swarming defense and Gates’ inability to convert several key free-throw opportunities.  Jefferson finally got going with his inside presence, but Gates drove repeatedly on the big center, and he was in foul trouble once again and had to sit out several key stretches in the half before picking up his fifth foul. 

Reddish picked up with solid drives to the basket and the Rams were within striking distance of a phenomenal comeback: down two, 65-63, with twenty seconds left in the contest.

But Gates rediscovered their touch at the free-throw stripe and were able to salt away the game as time expired – horn or no horn – and preserve the win, their first of the season.

&uot;We came out flat at the start of the game,&uot; said Gibbs, &uot;and sort of played that way until midway thru the second quarter.&uot;

He also pointed out that Gates was able to convert of a number of Northampton-East turnovers.

&uot;A lot of those,&uot; mused Gibbs, &uot;led to easy baskets. Obviously we missed Jefferson, though I thought Quinton Shoulders filled in well for him when he (Jefferson) was out&uot;.

‘”I’m awfully proud of these kids,” he added. “We played two quality opponents. We just came up short&uot;.

&uot;I don’t want to give away too much of what we did&uot;, said Norfleet with a wry wink, reflecting that these same two teams met in the same Tournament’s consolation game in 2005 with Northampton-East coming out on the winning end.  &uot;We may see them again in the Sectionals.&uot;

Both teams will open conference play when the New Year begins.  Gates County against powerful Manteo, and Northampton-East will play Southeast Halifax.