Rams add tourney title to regular season championship

Published 4:22 pm Friday, February 9, 2024

AHOSKIE – Antron Gray scored a game-high 21 points, one of three Ridgecroft players in double figures, as the Rams edged Pungo Christian Academy, 57-53, here Thursday night in the championship game of the Tarheel Independent Conference Tournament.

Thanks to Thursday night’s win vs. Pungo Christian, the Ridgecroft School varsity boys added the Tarheel Independent Conference’s tournament title to their regular season championship. The team consists of, kneeling from left, Baylor Edwards, Antron Gray, Jay Gaston, and Frank Jones, along with, standing from left, Sawyer Chamblee, Taylor Gunter, Nacir Lewis, Grafton Williams, Bill Vaughan, and Benedict Lana. Photo by William Anthony

For his efforts, Gray was named as the Tournament MVP. Nacir Lewis and Sawyer Chamblee also earned All-Tournament honors.

In a game full of offensive spurts by both teams, Pungo – who trailed by as many as seven (47-40) two minutes into the fourth quarter – made a run at the Rams. Highlighted by back-to-back baskets from Maddox Lee (later named as the league’s Player of the Year), the Raiders got to within a single point (49-48) with just over three minutes left in the game.

Ridgecroft’s Baylor Edwards answered by draining a clutch three-pointer from the left wing for a 52-48 lead with 1:59 remaining.

Lee hit another basket with 1:16 left that got the Raiders to within two (52-50).

Forced into a fouling situation, Pungo was hopeful that Ridgecroft would fail under pressure at the free throw line, but the Rams spoiled that ploy as Bill Vaughan, Chamblee, and Gray combined to sink 4-of-6 charity tosses over a span of 42 seconds, allowing the Rams to stretch their advantage to 56-50.

Pungo’s Bo Spencer connected on a three-pointer from the deep left corner with seven seconds left, making it a one possession game at 56-53.

But Chamblee came through in the clutch, making 1-of-2 free throws to make it a two possession game with six ticks left on the clock.

Pungo’s only lead of the night came early in the game where the Raiders raced out to a 10-3 lead.

Ridgecroft then went on a 15-5 run – sparked by a pair of Lewis baskets, a hoop and two free throws by Chamblee, and an old-fashioned three-point play from Gray – to lead 18-15 by the end of the first quarter and would never trail again.

Junior guard Antron Gray of Ridgecroft School earned MVP honors at the 2024 Tarheel Independent Conference Tournament. Photo by William Anthony

Sparked by the play of Quay Artis – who scored a team-high 16 points for Pungo – the Raiders got to within one point (23-22) with 3:48 left in the second quarter.

But Edwards got the Rams rolling again, burying a three-pointer from the right corner followed by back-to-back baskets by Gray. That offensive flurry allowed Ridgecroft to hold a 32-26 lead at halftime.

That advantage grew to double digits (36-26) when Gray opened the third quarter by beating his defender off the dribble and driving to the hoop for consecutive baskets.

Pungo would eventually slice that deficit to four (42-38) with under two minutes left in the third quarter thanks to back-to-back baskets from Drew Van Staalduinen and Austin Garrish.

But again, Gray was too quick for the Pungo defense as he got free on the perimeter to drill a three pointer that staked the Rams to a 45-38 lead entering the final period of play.

Ridgecroft, who also won the TIC’s regular season title, improved to 19-5 overall. The Rams will now head to the North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association’s state tournament that begins next week.

 

Ridgecroft (57)

Antron Gray – 21, Baylor Edwards – 11, Bill Vaughan – 10, Nacir Lewis – 7, Sawyer Chamblee – 6, Frank Jones – 2.

 

Pungo Christian (53)

Quay Artis – 16, Austin Garrish – 13, Maddox Lee – 12, Drew Van Staalduinen – 9, Bo Spencer – 3.

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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