The same scheme that helped Rocky Mount Academy rebound from a series of early struggles and keep pace with Raleigh St. David’s ultimately was its downfall Saturday at Rocky Mount Academy.
After using a 2-3 zone to slow Raleigh St. David’s offense and help find some flow for itself, the defense’s weaknesses – three-point shooting and defensive rebounding – shined through late in the Eagles’ 53-45 loss in the semifinals of the Eastern Plains Independent Conference Tournament.
“The three-point shot killed us,” Rocky Mount Academy coach Scott Dunn said. “... They executed down the stretch.”
The loss, which came after the Warriors ended the game with a 17-7 surge, ended the season for Rocky Mount Academy (14-8).
The Eagles had won back-to-back conference championship titles but graduated five starters from last year’s team.
“The boys played hard,” Dunn said. “They fought hard. They left everything on the court (Saturday). I couldn’t have asked for a better effort from the guys. They left it all on the floor.”
After a sluggish start, Rocky Mount Academy surged to a lead it held for much of the game thanks to eight unanswered points to start the second quarter. The zone was working, and Rocky Mount Academy was forcing No. 2 seed Raleigh St. David’s (15-13) into turnovers.
The Eagles held the Warriors scoreless for nearly eight minutes in the first half to take a four-point lead, which extended slightly to start the second half.
But another key issue – foul trouble – started to show itself.
Forward Brandon Acker missed much of the first half in foul trouble, and Elijah McCadden picked up four fouls in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
“It put us in a bind, but the boys that came in ... played real good games for us,” Dunn said. “They contributed and kept us in the game in the first half.”
The Warriors’ run started with McCadden on the bench as third-seeded Rocky Mount Academy was forced into multiple turnovers without one of its primary ball handlers in the game.
“They have a good press,” Acker said. “It’s just difficult to get by some times”
Zach Fulcher, who missed time in the first half because of dehydration, picked up his fourth foul in the fourth quarter as well.
To compound the problems, Raleigh St. David’s found its range.
Robbie O’Han scored a game-high 18 points, all from behind the three-point arc. He hit four in the second half, including one from the wing with 2:20 to play that gave the Warriors the lead for good.
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org