The SouthWest Edgecombe Cougars had one thing on their minds Thursday when they played the Riverside Knights in the first round of the annual Edgecombe County Holiday Christmas tournament. Revenge. The Cougars wanted to pay back the Knights after the Cougars were defeated by the Knights in the championship game last year in the tournament. The Cougars got what they were looking for and waltzed to a 62-49 win.
"We played well and with a lot of energy," Cougars head coach Anthony Burns said. "Our defense was the key that helped us win."
SouthWest forced the Knights to commit 18 turnovers and they turned those turnovers into 12 points.
The Cougars used their transition game to blow open the game early on. SouthWest forced Riverside to call a timeout halfway through the first quarter after the Cougars exploded out of the gate and led 12-2. After the timeout, the Cougars continued to pour it on the Knights. They went on a 6-0 run after the timeout before the Knights were able to score another basket. The Cougars led 18-7 after one quarter.
The Cougars continued to dominate in the second quarter. They outscored the Knights 21-15 in the second behind Hinton and Anthony Coley’s tough nose offense. They combined for 12 points in the quarter. The Cougars led 39-22 at halftime.
"I told my guys to keep fighting at halftime," Burns said. "I didn't want us to let up and let them get back in the game. We needed to continue to play like we did in the first half defensively."
The Cougars responded to their coaches instructions. The Cougars continued their tough defensive pressure in their man-to-man defense. They forced the Knights to turn the ball over five times in the first four minutes of the third quarter and responded by turning the mistakes into eight points.
Riverside made a late run, but the Cougars would answer back and kept the lead in double digits.
Hinton led the Cougars with 14, while Coley added 12 and Bandy chipped in 10.
The Cougars will play county rival the Tarboro Vikings in the championship game today at 8 p.m.
Burns wants his team to come in play 100 percent on both sides of the ball. He said the key to winning will be to play great defense and don't give up the easy baskets.
North Edgecombe 44
The Tarboro Vikings and North Edgecombe Warriors met for the third time this season and Warriors head coach Mike Jones was hoping the third time would be a charm for his Warriors to defeat the Vikings. Missed lay-ups and free throws were the down fall for the Warriors as the Vikings defeated them 55-44.
"I was pleased with our overall performance," Jones said. "We fought hard and are beginning to play with more team chemistry. We still have a long way to go."
Tarboro head coach Craig Savage was pleased with his teams win, but wasn't happy with their overall play. Savage saw a positive note with his team. They only turned the ball over 12 times. This was the first time this season that the Vikings hadn't turned the ball over more then 25 times in a game.
"We talked about cutting down on the turnovers before the game," Savage said. "I think we did a better job handling the ball then we have in the past."
Savage still wasn't pleased with his teams rebounding. The Warriors were tough on the offensive end of the floor and had 12 second and third chance shots, but just couldn't score.
"We didn't look good overall just in spurts because we continued to get beat all over the boards," Savage said. "I don't think it was a pretty win but I will take it."
The only big plus for the Vikings on the boards was Keithion Battle. He grabbed 22 rebounds for the Vikings and had four blocked shots. Battle started for the first time this season and made Savage into a believer with his inside presences.
"Keithion played great for us tonight," Savage said. "He gives us a good inside presences and helped us on the boards when we didn't get beat."
Both teams struggled from the floor shooting the ball. Neither team could find a rhythm offensively. The Warriors relied on their second and third chance opportunities to give them a scoring boost. The Vikings used their outside game to keep them ahead the entire game.
Savage knows his team will have to play a better overall game tonight if they want to defeat the SouthWest Cougars in the championship.
"We have to be ready to play because SouthWest is a good team," Savage said. "We are going to have to slow the tempo down and not let them out run us."