United Faith boys basketball coach Muggsy Bogues, dressed in all black, walked out of his locker room looking like he’d been in a heavyweight fight Friday night at Forsyth Country Day School.
“I’m spent,” he said, forcing a grin.
His team, seeded No. 5 in the N.C. Independent Schools 1A playoffs, nearly pulled the upset of the tournament before falling 82-80 to top-seeded Fayetteville Trinity Christian. Crusaders sophomore Dennis Smith Jr. made a running jump shot with 2 seconds left in overtime.
United Faith won the 2009 and 2010 state titles and lost in the final in 2011. The Falcons weren’t eligible in 2012 or 2013 but were very close to another state final appearance in their first year back.
Ultimately, however, defensive collapses hurt United Faith (22-7) at the end of regulation and overtime. Smith (31 points) repeatedly sliced through the Falcons’ man-to-man defense late for driving layups, including one with 21.2 seconds left in regulation that gave his team a 73-72 lead. United Faith sophomore guard Ty Gadsden (32 points, nine assists) made a reverse layup with 7.9 seconds left for a 74-73 lead, but the Falcons couldn’t stop Smith, who was fouled driving to the basket. Smith made 1 of 2 free throws with 1.2 seconds left to force overtime.
And in the extra period, after Gadsden tied the game with two free throws with 43.1 seconds to play, Smith dribbled the clock down, took a high screen, drove and scored the winner. That set off a huge celebration for Trinity Christian (24-4), which will face Greenfield School or Raleigh Word of God in Saturday’s 4 p.m. final.
For United Faith, Smith’s shot – and that mega-celebration – was pure heartbreak.
“It was the defensive stops,” Bogues said. “We just didn’t get the stops we should’ve gotten at the end. The guys have got to close those situations out. But I’m proud of them. They gave me everything they had this year. I got more out of them than I was expecting. Even though we lost, I told the guys, ‘You still won. You learn to erase some mistakes, and next time, we’ll be getting ready to play for a championship.’ ”
With at least five college coaches in attendance, and several recruiting experts, the teams delivered a scintillating semifinal. United Faith’s largest lead was eight points. Trinity’s was seven. There were eight lead changes and six ties in the first three quarters.
There were nine lead changes in the fourth quarter and overtime, plus five ties. And Smith and Gadsden couldn’t be stopped through any of it. They took turns making big basket after big basket. Gadsden played all 36 minutes and guarded Smith virtually the entire game. Five players took turns guarding Gadsden, including Smith a few times.
“Little fella,” Bogues said of Gadsden. “I tell you what, that kid is going to be special. He had a good challenge today playing against Smith. Smith’s a heck of a player. He’s one of the top players I’ve seen this year, and seeing him going against Ty, to see that type of competition, I was loving it.”
Northside Christian 77, Asheville Christian 45: Keyshawn Woods scored 29 points, and Northside advanced to its fourth straight state final. The Knights (27-1) play Concord First Assembly in Saturday’s 8 p.m. final.
Davidson Day 51 girls, Northside Christian 49: Davidson Day, a No. 7 seed, upset No. 3 Northside and will face No. 1 Carolina Day (27-4) at 6 p.m. Saturday. Carolina Day is playing for a fourth straight state title.
Providence Day 38, Rabun Gap 36: Providence Day’s Jatarie White made a layup at the buzzer to send her team to Saturday’s 10 a.m. final against Greensboro Day. White, a McDonald’s All-American, finished with 16 points and five rebounds. The Chargers are in the final for the 10th straight year.
“It feels great,” Chargers coach Josh Springer said. “There are two teams playing (Saturday), and we’re one of them. We’re fortunate to be one possession better than Rabun Gap. They match up with us so well.”