Buzzer beater

Published 9:14 am Tuesday, December 10, 2013

AHOSKIE – It was a game-winner even the opposition had to tip their hats to.

With four seconds left, PungoChristianAcademy’s Cole Austin Woolard took a pass from teammate Dalton Etheredge at midcourt, drove toward the basket at the south end of Revelle Gymnasium and let fly a lay-up that softly kissed the backboard and fell through the net.

While it momentarily stunned and silenced the partisan Ridgecroft School crowd, it was moments later that these same fans were respectfully applauding a great ending to the Lt. Nick Brantley Scholarship Tournament.

The Raiders had watched earlier as the Rams’ Jay Lane skied high over a defender and coolly drained a three-point basket that looked to be the game winner.

But there was still time left on the clock, and still time for Pungo coach Jason Adams to draw up one more play.

But he never did, or so he claimed.

“This was all on the players,” a jubilant but exhausted Adams said over the din of the still-cheering Pungo crowd following the end of the game. “They drew this one up themselves.”

“I didn’t have nothing to do with it,” he breathlessly explained. “It was just give it to number-four (Woolard) and let him bump his way to the basket.”

Woolard had sixteen points and was named Most Valuable Player for the tournament. He also had six rebounds. Teammate Marcus Williams posted a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Ridgecroft’s Landon Larabee led all scorers with 17 points, he also had seven assists. Nathan Askew had 15 points and Brandon Steiner had 11 as the only Rams with double-figure scoring.

“The three-pointer was clutch,” said Rams coach Dan Mullens. “But they were out for revenge after we beat them earlier in the year.”

The Rams opened the game with Larabee and John Taylor draining three-pointers for a 6-0 lead.  Woolard led Pungo back and they tied it at the two-minute mark. It was tied once more before Ridgecroft seized the lead and held a 9-8 advantage after the first quarter.

The two adversaries played like they were familiar with one another.  No one took a lead of more than three points, and the contest was tied two more times, the last one at 13-13 with just over five minutes until halftime. Each team scored right after the other and it was still the Rams by one at the break, 18-17.

With the game tied, 22-all in the third quarter Woolard and Williams staked Pungo to a five-point lead twice, 27-23 and 29-24. It was five again, 31-26 when the horn sounded ending the third and the tight, physical affair went to the final eight minutes.

Larabee scored the opening bucket of the fourth quarter to get the Rams within three, but Woolard nailed a three-pointer and the Raiders had their biggest lead of the game at six.

Reminiscent of the earlier TIC game the pair played back in November, this one was a chess match down the stretch.  After Pungo made a pair of free throws to lead it, 35-31, Larabee got a steal and a lay-up to get the Rams within two, 35-33.

Williams then scored in the paint for a 37-33 lead, but Nathan Askew would score for Ridgecroft at the other end to make it 37-35.  Following a Raiders’ miss, the Rams set up the final shot. They worked the ball around the perimeter and then flashed a pass to Lane, who rose over one defender as another charged at him to block the shot.  Instead, it hit nothing but net and with four seconds left, it looked like the Rams would make it two in a row over the Belhaven bunch.

But then came “the play”.

“We were just a little bit tougher on defense tonight,” said Adams, finally forcing a smile. “It was just a total team effort is all I can tell you.”

NOTES: The All-Tournament boys’ team consisted of: Woolard as MVP along with Williams from Pungo. Larabee and Lane made it from Ridgecroft, and rounding it out were Andrew Tillet and Adam Carter from Ocracoke.