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Five varsity boys basketball teams in the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference are engaged in the scramble for one guaranteed playoff spot into the North Carolina High School Athletic Association postseason.
It’s a reality that both head coaches, Beddingfield’s Joe Dvozenja and SouthWest Edgecombe’s Shelton Langley, readily acknowledge. And entering play Friday night, Dvozenja’s Bruins had the inside track towards that coveted spot.
Then, the Cougars intervened.
Leading most of the way, SouthWest Edgecombe saw the Bruins chop what was a 14-point third-quarter lead down to four early in the fourth. But behind the explosive first step of junior Keishon Porter, the Cougars pulled away over the final two minutes to secure a 71-64 victory.
SouthWest evened both its overall record and conference mark at 9-9 and 2-2, respectively. Beddingfield, which next draws the assignment of traveling to unbeaten Farmville Central on Tuesday night, lost for the first time in four conference games. The Bruins now sit 7-9.
Porter, held in check during the opening quarter, gradually came on to the tune of 24 points and seven rebounds to lead all scorers.
“I told the guys, this was huge,” Langley said. “Because they were 3-0 and we were 1-2, and we’re closer to tying them now. They’ve got to play Farmville now, but we’ve got to do our job against everybody we see for the rest of the year.”
Beddingfield didn’t go away immediately, as it trailed 61-49 with 2:37 to go following a Porter dunk. The Bruins cut the margin to 64-57 on a floater from senior Trevon Brantley. Yet as Dvozenja gave the command to foul beginning in the final 90 seconds, Brantley became too eager and pulled the back of senior Jayden Lewis’s jersey. That brought fourth the intentional foul call, and Lewis’s two resulting free throws and possession set the stage for the Cougars proceeding to the final margin. After SouthWest was awarded possession following the intentional, Porter threw down an alley-oop dunk off the inbounds.
“They just hit some big shots,” Dvozenja said. “We just didn’t hit anything. We were cold — probably one of the coldest nights. But the guys showed a lot of tenacity and they fought hard all the way to the end. Things just didn’t go our way tonight.
Mike Best, a sophomore, led Beddingfield with 20 points. Sophomore point guard Lamont Speight had 17 for the Bruins.
Slade Hinton, a junior, had four 3-pointers for SouthWest and helped stake the visitors to a 19-11 cushion after one quarter and a 34-26 edge at the half.
Freshman Jaquan Wilkins came within a point of a double-double for the Cougars, getting nine points and 10 rebounds.
SouthWest had its way on the backboards by a 37-23 margin.
“We told them we’re technically still in second place,” Dvozenja said. “So right now, we’ve got a big game on Tuesday against Farmville, and we’ll see what happens.”
The Cougars, who have played Farmville Central once already, host North Johnston on Tuesday to wrap up the first half of conference play.
SW EDGECOMBE (71)
Porter 24, Mayo 9, Lewis 10, Hinton 14, Ruffin 4, Jones, Dunn 1, Wilkins 9, Richardson, Gunter, Sledge, Dickens.
Brantley 8, M. Best 20, Roesch, Speight 17, J. Best 2, Gattis 12, Batts 5, Grant.
Score by quarters:
SW Edgecombe 19 15 12 25 — 71
Beddingfield 11 15 13 25 — 64