For the second time in three months, North Edgecombe found itself playing in a regional game just one victory away from an appearance in the state championship.
The Warriors’ first attempt fell short after losing in the 1-A football regional in December. On Saturday, the same group returned to the regional stage as the North Edgecombe boys’ basketball team had another opportunity, but the Warriors couldn’t overcome a tough third quarter that led to a 68-48 loss to sixth-seeded Henderson Collegiate at Minges Coliseum on the campus of East Carolina University in Greenville.
“We put everything we could into this season,” Warriors senior Marvin Tucker said.
The top-seeded Warriors (27-3) opened slow and trailed 12-5 early in the first quarter, and again at 17-11 early in the second quarter. North Edgecombe had answers for each, however, as the team seemed to find the range and went on to close the first half on a 13-7 run to knot the score at 24-24 at halftime.
At one point late in the second quarter Tucker grabbed a rebound and threw down a dunk in traffic all in one leap to spark his team and excite the orange-clad fans that filled the lower bowl of the arena. Tucker was whistled for a technical following the play, which put a lid on the rowdy atmosphere.
“I think it was the technical right before the half that took momentum from us,” Warriors coach Calvin Phillips said.
The play, and the scoring run at the end of the quarter, showed that the Warriors could hang with the Pride who were able to match the athleticism that North Edgecombe used all season to hound opponents on both ends of the court.
But that energy didn’t stick around for long as the Warriors couldn’t pull themselves away from a drop-off in the third quarter that ultimately proved to sink their title aspirations. Henderson Collegiate opened the third quarter on a 22-4 run, punctuated by a I’Jheaur Sharpe technical foul that led to four made free throws and a 46-28 deficit.
“We missed shots,” Phillips said. “Shots that we normally make. Our defensive intensity wasn’t where it’s normally at, either. We couldn’t defend. But I’ve seen (us) come back from bigger leads so I wasn’t worried about their run, I was worried about us.”
North Edgecombe averaged 80 points per game this season, and Saturday’s was the lowest-scoring effort of the 30-game schedule. The team shot a combined 19 of 56, including 5-for-22 from 3-point range. The missed shots were especially costly as the Pride out-rebounded North Edgecombe 55-37.
In fact, the Warriors grabbed just 13 rebounds in the second half, while the Pride collected 28 over the final two periods.
“Rebounding was big for us in the second half,” Henderson Collegiate coach George Marshall said. “Instead of panicking when we’re at halftime, we go in and reset ourselves, and we come out and finish the game strong.”
Javonte Waverly led all scorers with 27 points and added 12 rebounds. He was one of two Pride players to record a double double, as JaQuaveon Venable had 10 points and 10 boards.
Amarion McCrae, who has been North Edgecombe’s energy off the bench throughout the season and playoffs, led his team with 17 points. Tucker finished with 13 points and nine rebounds, while Sharpe had six points, five assists and four boards.
“It was a nice matchup across the board for us, and we felt like we would be able to play our style of basketball,” Phillips said. “But when the ball doesn’t go in as often as you want it to, then you kind of fall back on your defense. It was a different type of game than we wanted.”