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Bulls fall to Stallions in overtime

For South Stanly fans, an apt description of Tuesday’s first-round playoff game with Queen’s Grant can be found by paraphrasing the words of “Whispering” Bill Anderson: “I had you right on the tips of my fingers, but I let you slip right through my hands.”

When he wrote those words in 1960, Anderson was referring to lost love, but his heart was no less broken than those of Bulls fans, players and coaches following Tuesday’s overtime clash, as the South squad, trailing for three quarters, mounted a furious fourth-quarter rally, took a late lead, saw it evaporate on a last-second miscue and then slip away in overtime.

“You’ve got to make your free throws late in the game,” said a dejected South Stanly coach Sean Whitley afterwards.

Indeed, his squad hit only 10-of-24 foul shots for the entire game, including a bleak 1-for-8 during the extra period. In contrast, Queen’s Grant was successful on 17-of-28 for the game, including 9-of-13 in the final two
minutes of overtime as the Bulls were forced to foul.

The visiting Stallions came out hot, jumping to a 9-2 lead two minutes into the game before South mounted a 10-0 run over the next four minutes. Paced by five points from forward Addison Tarlton, the home squad pushed ahead to a 12-9 advantage before Queen’s Grant scored the final five points of the opening period.
Over the next two quarters, Justin Gaddy and Jaquez Cooke found their respective shots, as the two combined for 21 of South’s 27 points during the stretch. Meanwhile, Queen’s Grant guard Josh Williams and forward
Jeremiah Murphy provided consistent point production for the Stallions, resulting in a 44-39 lead for the visitors after three quarters.

After South Stanly scored the first four points of the fourth, Queen’s Grant coach Walter Wright took a timeout at the 6:08 mark in an effort to regroup his defense and rest his team, which rostered a meager eight players, only six of whom saw on-court action.

Following a Bulls timeout with 4:41 remaining, Gaddy hit a short jumper from right of the lane to tie the score at 45. Murphy answered with a trey followed by a Stallion timeout, after which a Gaddy 3-pointer tied the game at 48.

Then, following a Stallion turnover, Cooke hit a driving layup to give South Stanly its first lead since the opening period.

After a held ball and a South timeout, Cooke was fouled and made both shots to push the Bulls ahead 52-48 with 42 seconds remaining. Williams drove to the basket and scored with 30 ticks remaining to cut the South lead to two.

After Queen’s Grant fouls on Duncan McSwain and Tarlton netted two points on four free throws, the Bulls found themselves once again up by four with 20 seconds left. Murphy’s stick-back with eight seconds left cut the lead to 54-52, and the Stallions immediately fouled Cooke with six seconds remaining.

At the foul line, Cooke hit the first of his two shots, but missed the second, which was rebounded by Queen’s Grant. A quick outlet pass went to Williams, who drove to the right wing, lofted a 3-point shot, and was fouled by Cooke in the act. With six-tenths of a second on the clock, Williams then calmly sank all three free throws to knot the game at 55 and force an additional four minutes of play.

Queen’s Grant outscored the Bulls 6-0 over the first 3:30 of the extra period before Cooke broke the drought with a driving layup. After a Stallions basket pushed the lead back to five with 14 seconds remaining, Jadius Jones hit a free throw to cut the lead to four.

After a Bulls foul, Williams hit both shots at the other end to push the lead to 64-58 with nine seconds left.

Gaddy’s long trey with three seconds remaining accounted for the
final 64-61 score.

Each team placed three players in double figures. South’s Gaddy led all scorers with 26 points, followed by Cooke’s 16 and Jones with 12. Queen’s Grant was paced by Boyette (20), Williams (19) and Murphy (18).

“It’s hard to put into words how great this season has been,” said Whitley, who becomes the first coach since the late Harvey Brooks to lead a South Stanly team to a conference championship.

“This group of seniors has accomplished tons for South Stanly,” he said. “Not only have they changed the culture of basketball here, but they have been great teammates to each other, and really easy to coach, too.”

Seniors on the 2019-20 team include Gaddy, Cooke, Jones, McSwain and Tarlton in addition to Cam Bowers, Logan Lilly and Colby Almond.

QUEENS GRANT 14 14 16 11 9 — 64
SOUTH STANLY 12 12 15 16 6 — 61