After losing to Northside Christian in the N.C. Independent Schools 2A state championship the past two seasons, senior-led Concord First Assembly finally got the win it wanted Saturday in Asheville.
Led by 22 points and 15 rebounds from Nick Payne, First Assembly withstood several big Northside Christian rallies to win 56-49 in the 2015 NCISAA 2A state finals at Asheville School. It was the teams’ third meeting this season.
This was the largest margin of victory in any of them.
Northside (24-6) won 70-66 earlier this year. First Assembly won the first meeting 58-55 in December.
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But this was the one that counted most.
Northside, a three-time state champ, was in the finals for the fifth straight season under coach Byron Dinkins. The Knights graduated three players from a 28-1 state champ last season -- and 2013-14 Observer player of the Keyshawn Woods (Charlotte), James Demery (St. Joe’s) and Desean Murray (Presbyterian) are all playing signifigant minutes on NCAA Division I teams.
Then at the beginning of this season, Northside lost three key players. Assistant coach Jeff McInnis left the team. All-American sophomore guard Ty-shon Alexander transferred before he played a game. Shortly thereafter, Devin Cooper transferred back to Ardrey Kell and Ray Kowalski transferred to Concord.
All three players would’ve played signifigant minutes.
Northside coach Byron Dinkins still guided his team to the state final, where First Assembly was again waiting.
The Eagles grabbed a 25-15 lead early but trailed by one at halftime. In the second half, First Assembly maintained leads of around seven points and made free throws late. Charles Minlend, an all-state pick, had 15 points and four rebounds for First Assembly. Marquise Beasley added nine points and 15 rebounds.
Northside got 24 points and two rebounds from Florida Gulf Coast recruit Rayjon Tucker.
NCISAA 2A All-State Team
Charles Minlend, Concord First Assembly; Rayjon Tucker, Lysander Bracey, Northside Christian; Jordan Shepherd, Asheville Christian; Quate McKinzie, Harrells Christian; Adam Koziol, Gaston Day; Kenny Hairston, Davidson Day; Kwinton Hinson, Village Christian; Marko Tomic, Freedom Christian; David Ayodele, Westchester Country Day; Christian Adams, Calvary Baptist