Raptors end Bulldogs’ season

Published 8:11 am Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Albemarle High men’s squad saw its season come to an end Tuesday night as the visiting Mountain Island Charter squad took a 70-58 win in the first round of the NCHSAA playoffs.

Albemarle, which had lost momentum in the final week of the season, entered the playoffs on a three-game losing streak. However, the Bulldogs still received a No. 15 playoff seed by virtue of a third-place finish in Yadkin Valley Conference play. Mountain Island Charter, in Mt. Holly, entered the playoffs as the fourth seed from the PAC-7 conference, and the No. 18 seed.

Albemarle opened an early 4-0 lead as Ali Currie scored on a backdoor cut and a driving layup, but fell behind 6-4 at the five-minute mark on a Demetrious Washington dunk after an AHS turnover. The Bulldogs managed to regain control, however, outscoring Mountain Island 10-6 over the final four minutes of the first period to take a 19-14 lead.

The first six minutes of the second quarter proved disastrous for Albemarle, as Mountain Island utilized strong board play and quickness in the back court to force eight Albemarle turnovers while outscoring the Bulldogs 13-1. Two Brandon Christian baskets in the half’s final two minutes slowed the bleeding slightly, but the Raptors headed to the dressing room with a 10-point lead and a tight grip on the game’s momentum.

Fiery shooting by Mountain Island, coupled with smothering defense, accounted for the second-quarter turnaround. In the first half of play, Mountain Island connected on 15 of 21 shots from the field for a 71 percent accuracy rate, including four-of-seven from 3-point range. Conversely, Albemarle’s shots rippled the net only 34 percent of the time (10 of 29).

Mountain Island pushed the lead to as many as 14 points during the third quarter, never allowing the margin to fall into single digits. Young talent stood out for both teams, with freshman M.J. Raye of Albemarle drilling two 3-pointers, and Raptor sophomore Gabe Stephens exhibiting strong inside play while contributing four points.

Trailing by 12 entering the final period, Albemarle seemed to regroup on defense while regaining its shooting touch on the opposite end. Cameron Williams opened the scoring with a driving layup to bring his team within 10. The margin varied between 10 and 12 for the next three minutes before Currie finally cut the lead to single digits (56-47) with a three-ball from the left wing at the 4:20 mark.

On the opposite end, the Raptors mishandled the ball, resulting in a Williams breakaway layup. This prompted a timeout call by Mountain Island coach Robert Price with 3:53 remaining.

Price’s effort to cool the home team comeback seemed to work, as his squad came off the timeout and fed the ball to junior guard Kobe Creamer, whose layup pushed the lead back to nine. But Currie struck again at the Albemarle end with an old-fashioned three point play, cutting the Raptor lead to six with 3:13 on the clock.

Raye pulled the home team to within five on a 3-pointer from the right corner with 2:15 left, but six unanswered points by Mountain Island over the next 90 seconds pushed the lead back to 11.

Another Raye 3-ball with 42 seconds remaining sliced the lead to eight, but Albemarle was forced to foul while the visitors calmly sank free throws to finish off the win.

Albemarle concludes its season with a 14-14 overall record. Mountain Island (18-7) advances to play conference foe and No. 2 tournament seed Community School of Davidson, an 89-41 winner over West Montgomery.

For the winners, Anthony Phillips shared scoring honors with Washington as each contributed 16.

Currie led the Bulldog effort with 18, followed by Raye with 17 and Williams with 10.

“We have got to learn to finish strong,” said AHS coach Marc Raye. “Opportunities don’t come along often, so we have to learn to take advantage of them when they do.”

“We were young this year,” added the coach. “We were led by two freshmen (M.J. Raye and Currie), so the future looks bright.”