Plymouth slips by Northampton

Published 4:02 pm Wednesday, December 28, 2011

AHOSKIE – At Christmas-time, you like for your visitors to make themselves at home.

Plymouth High’s boys basketball team certainly did that.

Playing in their first-ever Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald Holiday Classic basketball tournament sponsored by United Country Joe Murray Realty, the Vikings won their opener, 60-51, over tournament vet, Northampton County-East.

Khalil Shepard led a trio of Vikes in double figures with 13 points. Carl McCray added 12 after hitting six-of-eight free throws and Shawn Holloway dropped in 11.

Chris Bishop had 15 to pace the Rams while Kenny Graham pumped in 11.

The game was pretty evenly played up until two minutes before halftime when Holloway dropped back-to-back three-pointers to open up the contest and the Vikings held off a Ram comeback to pick up the win.

A furious zone defense by East helped hold down the normally high-scoring Plymouth offense, but even Vikes coach Marvin Davenport admitted after the game that his team had not played very consistently.

“We just stopped playing aggressive at times in the second half,” he said.  “A lot of times we were just slow getting there and played the man instead of the ball.

“We didn’t practice yesterday with it being Sunday and Christmas,” he added. “but we can play much better than what we showed tonight.”

Neither team took a lead of more than four points through the first eight minutes of the contest and that was by Plymouth on a McCray dunk that made it, 6-2; but Graham muted the hoots of the crowd by dropping a three pointer right after that.

The teams swapped buckets the rest of the way and that put Plymouth on top by one-point when the horn sounded to end the first quarter, 10-9.

Northampton got a free throw and another Graham jump shot to take their first lead early in the second quarter, 12-10. Plymouth came back to seize the lead and it looked like they were poised to break the game open.

But the Rams would have none of that: down by five, 19-14, the Rams attacked the basket and Plymouth was forced to foul. Northampton made their attempts at the charity stripe and with three and a half minutes to go the score was tied again, 22-all.

Then with two minutes to go until the break, Holloway – who had pretty much been a defensive afterthought – drained a three-pointer, followed by another one, and a three-point Plymouth lead grew to nine at 33-24.

On their last possessions each team hit a three, including Holloway’s third of the night, and the Vikings took an 11-point lead, 38-27, into the locker room at halftime.

Playing with that lead in the third quarter, Plymouth seemed to play minus aggressiveness; but by now East was down and had to try to jump-shoot their way back into the game.

Plymouth scored nine points in the quarter, and East only had seven; that left the Rams trailing by 13, 47-34, entering the last quarter.

East’s chipping away at the lead continued in the fourth and they got it down to 10, 53-43, but it was short-lived as McCray delighted the crowd once again with his second dunk to put the Vikings back in front by a dozen.

The Rams outscored Plymouth eight-to-five in the final two and a half minutes, but it only accounted for a more-respectable nine-point loss.

“We stopped closing out on the edges,” said East coach Dexter Hayes. “We just didn’t do that and when he hit three threes it means someone’s not doing their job on defense.

“We sort of went through the motions after that and we’re not the type of team that can do that,” he added.

Plymouth met Bertie in Tuesday’s second round while East had a Wednesday night date with Camden County.