It took four tries for Ardrey Kell High’s boys basketball team to win an N.C. 4A Western Regional game, but from the looks of the Knights’ mega-celebration after Saturday’s 65-55 victory against Greensboro Page, man, did it ever feel sweet.
The Knights picked apart the Greensboro Page 2-3 zone, forcing Page coach Matthew Harder, who had a major size advantage, to play man-to-man. And when the Pirates went man, Ardrey Kell coach Mike Craft picked them apart, calling a variety of sets that delivered easy layups or open jump shots for senior Steven Santa Ana (25 points).
Ardrey Kell advances to the regional championship game Saturday against West Charlotte. The Lions will try to reach the eighth N.C. High School Athletic Association state final in school history.
The Knights, ranked No. 39 nationally by USA Today, will try to reach their first.
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Ardrey Kell won its school-record 27th game in 28 tries Friday. The Knights have won 26 straight and haven’t lost since Nov. 21, when Myers Park beat them 57-55.
“This feels great,” Craft said. “I’m proud of these seniors. They’ve worked so hard. All five of them who were in at the end of the game started at Ardrey Kell at some time during their freshman years. They’ve worked their way up.”
Playing without starting point guard Devin Cooper (knee), a Division I signee, Ardrey Kell worked its way to a 5- or 7-point lead during the first half. In a fourth quarter where Santa Ana and Rhyle Scott each scored 12 points, Ardrey Kell pushed its lead to 13 points after a Scott layup with 3:18 to play.
But Page, which couldn’t make anything from the outside all game, got a 3-point shot from junior Jalen Seegars (30 points) and then the Pirates made a huge run.
Page outscored Ardrey Kell 9-0 in just 36 seconds and the lead was cut to 56-52 with two minutes left. A 2-1-2 full-court press confused Ardrey Kell, until Craft called time out, put in five seniors, and told them to finish.
And finish they did.
“At the end of the game (Page) had a little run,” Craft said. “I knew they would, but we made our free throws. We did everything we needed to do. I’m just so proud of these guys.”