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Cougars at large: SWE holds off Nash Central, keeps postseason hopes alive

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SouthWest Edgecombe’s Jayden Lewis, center, leaps through a cluster of Nash Central players to shoot the ball Wednesday at Nash Central High School.

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BY PATRICK MASON
Sports Wrtier

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

For the SouthWest Edgecombe boys’ basketball team, every win in the Eastern Plains Conference tournament means another check mark to its postseason hopes.

The Cougars needed help at the end of the regular season to secure an automatic playoff berth from none other than their Wednesday opponent in the Eastern Plains Conference tournament semifinal game, Nash Central.

In the regular season finale a Bulldogs loss would have allowed the Cougars to secure second place in the conference and an automatic bid. The Cougars did their part with a win, yet so did Nash Central. So when the two went head-to-head on Wednesday, SWE, playing to boost its resume, was playing for something extra.

The Cougars needed overtime, but held off a furious comeback attempt from the second-seeded Bulldogs and pulled out a 73-67 win and advanced to the tournament championship game against undefeated Farmville Central on Friday.

“When you look at our ranking, they put all the 1s and 2s in, then they start looking at the 3s, so every win helps,” SWE coach Shelton Langley said.

On Wednesday, SWE used a dominant second quarter to take a 34-18 lead into halftime. Only Nash Central’s Avante’ Simmons scored for the Bulldogs in the second quarter (he poured in seven of his 19 points) while the Cougars made seven baskets and scored 21 points in the frame.

SWE (14-12, 6-5) even kept pace in the third quarter as Nash Central (16-10, 6-5) made up just one point. But the fourth quarter was where the Bulldogs stormed back.

“We haven’t been up by 19 points in a lot of games,” Langley said. “They didn’t know how to act. We started taking too many 3s, Nash Central took away our penetration and gave us perimeter shots that we couldn’t knock down and they came back.”

Nash Central went on a 22-7 run in the fourth quarter and stymied the Bulldogs with a rare press to tie the score at 57-57 with less than two minutes to play. The teams traded baskets over the final 90 seconds, and Bulldogs guard Chris High’s jumper tied the score at 61-61 heading into overtime.

High had a game-high 22 points and 12 rebounds.

“We haven’t pressed probably since January,” Bulldogs coach Renny Taylor said. “They probably weren’t ready for it. But we don’t press because we’re not that good at it, but we used it out of necessity tonight.

“I’m proud of the way we came back.”

SWE took control in the overtime period and closed out the game at the foul line by making 8 of 10 free throws.

Girls’ semifinal

North Pitt 72

SouthWest Edgecombe 64

SouthWest Edgecombe was trudging through an uncharacteristically cold shooting night, and by the time it found the bottom of the net, it was too late.

The second-seeded Cougars on Wednesday were upset by No. 3 North Pitt in a semifinal of the Eastern Plains Conference tournament played at Nash Central High School.

SWE (19-6, 7-4) was competitive in the second half and was able to cut what was a mostly double-digit deficit in the first half to single digits a number of times, but couldn’t overcome a first half that began too slow.

It wasn’t until 2:02 remained in the first quarter that the Cougars made their first basket. By then, North Pitt (17-9, 7-4) led 9-2.

The basket paved the way for more scoring, however, as SWE trailed 15-10 by the end of the opening frame. But the Cougars’ scoring woes continued in the second quarter as North Pitt opened the frame on a 12-1 run, which pushed its lead to 27-11.

A Bailey Davis 3-pointer stopped the run, but the damage had been done as SWE trailed 35-22 at half.

Davis came off the bench to lead the Cougars with a game-high 25 points, including four 3s, while Jada Battle had 16 points and Adrian McKinney added 11 in the loss.

North Pitt was led by Ashanti Hine’s 23 points, with Tjuanna Williams and J’Nadia Maye scoring 17 and 15, respectively. Williams scored 12 of her points in the second quarter.

North Pitt advances to the EPC title game against top-seeded Farmville Central. SWE, meanwhile, awaits Saturday's postseason seeding.

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