KINSTON – Cold second half shooting turned out to be the downfall for the SouthWest Edgecombe Cougars Wednesday night against the state's top ranked 2-A Kinston Vikings. The Cougars were fired up and ready to play in the semifinals against the Vikings. They played with a lot of poise and determination, but their poor shooting second half caused them to lose 65-42.
First-year head coach Anthony Burns was very pleased with his team’s performance and said minus the poor shooting in the second half, his team played right with Kinston.
"When you go cold from the floor you aren't going to last long against a team like Kinston," Burns said. "I told them to come out and play their hardest and not have any fear and they would be alright. They responded and made it a good game."
Burns didn't know what to expect coming into the game, because Kinston had blown the Cougars out their previous two games this season. He knew what Kinston could do and gave his team the game plan and they executed to near perfection in the first half. But the second half became the problem.
"I am very impressed with the way we played all around tonight," Burns said. "I am proud of them because they should lots of maturity. They came together as a family and they came out and just played the game like I knew we were capable of playing."
The Cougars hung right with the Vikings in the first half behind some tough nose defense and good ball control on the offensive end of the floor.
Anthony Coley and Javine Hinton have been the Cougars floor generals all season and showed why early on. Coley and Hinton both showed a lot of poise and made some good shot selections and scored off of several offensive rebounds. Coley finished with 13 and Hinton added 12. The two seniors combined with grabbing 24 rebounds.
After trailing 12-4 in the first quarter with 5:02 to play, Burns called a timeout after Kinston had put together a 6-0 run. After the timeout the Cougars came back on the floor with what seemed to be fire in their eyes. They began to flow offensively and moved the ball around and found good shots. Fabrion Bandy added four in the game. He two free throws after the timeout and then grabbed an offensive rebound on the next possession and feed Coley with a good pass to score. Bandy hit a jumper and Kinston connected back to back on possessions and led 15-11 after one quarter of action.
The second half went the Cougars way the majority of the time, but Kinston sophomore Brandon Ingram went to work. He hit two big three pointers early on and made two big lay-ups, but the Cougars didn't give in. Hinton and Coley kept working the boards and feed their teammates off of rebounds and found a way to stay in the game. SouthWest trailed 29-23 at the half.
"We didn't have any pressure on us to start the game and we played with focus," Burns said. "We played a great first half and hit the boards like we should have."
Burns told his team to stay focused coming out of halftime and to continue to play at their pace.
Kinston had different ideas. They used the 6 foot 6 inch Ingram on the low post early in third quarter. He scored on four consecutive possessions and helped extend the Kinston lead.
SouthWest couldn't buy a basket in the third. They missed four lay-ups in the first three minutes of the quarter and shot poorly from the field. Kinston used the poor shooting to their advantage and went on two big runs in the quarter to put the game out of hand.
"They beat us in the second half like they have everyone else this season," Burns said. "They beat teams in all types of ways and they took advantage of our mistakes in the third quarter."
Burns said he and his team came in prepared for the worse, because he knows what type of damage Kinston can do when they get hot from the field. They showed it in the second half.
Kinston's head coach told Burns after the game that, that was one of the best games he has seen his team's opponents play all season. He was impressed with the way SouthWest kept their composer and played tough throughout the game.
SouthWest now has to sit and wait until Saturday to see if they get the luck of the draw when the NCHSAA 2-A brackets are announced. They are hoping with their 14-10 overall record, that they will get one of the two wild card spots in the east bracket and be able to make some noise in the playoffs.
"We will wait and see what happens Saturday," Burns said. "If we get a spot then we will show up and play."