Rams clinch TIC regular season title

Published 11:55 am Wednesday, January 31, 2024

AHOSKIE – Anything worth having is worth fighting for.

Sawyer Chamblee was recognized during Tuesday’s game vs. Pungo where the Ridgecroft senior scored his 1,000th career point. Photo by William Anthony

A game that looked like a rout in the early going turned into a nailbiter here Tuesday night where Ridgecroft’s varsity boys held off two, second half rallies by Pungo Christian to defeat the Raiders, 59-53.

The win allowed Ridgecroft (6-1 in league play; 16-5 overall) to win the Tarheel Independent Conference’s regular season title. The Rams enter next week’s TIC tournament, hosted this year by Ridgecroft, as the #1 seed.

Ridgecroft and Pungo (now 19-4 overall; 5-2 in the conference) had entered Tuesday night’s game tied for the league lead. The Rams defeated the Raiders, 61-57, when they met for the first time this season on Jan. 25 in Belhaven.

Leading by as many as 22 points late in the second quarter, it appeared that Ridgecroft was well on its way to an easy win in a game with so much at stake. However, the Raiders had other plans in mind.

By outhustling and outmuscling Ridgecroft for every loose ball, Pungo made a run in the third quarter. The Rams were still up by 14 (38-24) after a Nacir Lewis basket at the 4:31 mark, but Ridgecroft wouldn’t score again for over four minutes.

Sparked by a pair of Austin Garrish baskets and a pair of Maddox Lee free throws, the Raiders closed the period on a 7-3 run and trailed 41-31.

Ridgecroft’s Bill Vaughan took over in the opening moments of the fourth quarter where scored six of his 11 points to help the Rams reestablish a comfortable lead at 49-33 with 5:56 left in the game.

But the visitors still refused to surrender as a pair of baskets each from Quay Artis and Lee led the Raiders on a 12-3 run that trimmed their deficit to 52-45 with 2:31 remaining.

It got as close as 55-50 when Bo Spencer stuck in a basket off an offensive rebound for the Raiders with 16 seconds left, but the Rams held their foes at bay as Frank Jones and Baylor Edwards each swished a pair of free throws over the final 14 seconds to seal the win.

Despite scoring only three points over the first five and one-half minutes of the game, Ridgecroft finally found their shooting touch as Sawyer Chamblee buried three baskets while Antron Gray drained a buzzer-beating trey to highlight an 11-1 run to close the period where the Rams led 14-3.

A trey from Edwards plus an old-fashioned three-point play each by Chamblee and Vaughan allowed the Rams to extend their lead to 23-5 early in the second quarter. That advantage grew as high as 22 points (32-10) after a Chamblee deuce and a Gray trifecta. That basket by Chamblee marked the 1,000th point of his high school career and the game was briefly stopped for a ceremony to mark the milestone.

Ridgecroft (59)

Sawyer Chamblee – 16, Antron Gray – 13, Bill Vaughan – 11, Baylor Edwards – 9, Nacir Lewis – 8, Frank Jones – 2.

Pungo Christian (53)

Ouay Artis – 16, Austin Garrish – 15, Maddox Lee – 11, Bo Spencer – 5, Drew Van Staalduinen – 4, Michael Cripe – 2.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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