Charlotte Catholic made history Saturday night in the N.C. 4A boys’ state championship game. And they did it dramatic fashion.
The Cougars beat Cary 49-46 to win the school's first state championship in basketball. Catholic, which opened in 1955, became the first N.C. 4A school to win football and basketball championships in the same school year since Rocky Mount did it 53 years ago.
To do all that, Catholic (32-1) staged a huge rally. The Cougars trailed by 19 points with 4 minutes, 9 seconds left in the third quarter.
"It's quite a feeling to be sitting here, especially after putting up 12 points in the first half," said Catholic coach Mike King, whose team trailed 25-12 after two quarters and 40-26 after three. "But if there's a group of guys I knew would be able to take care of it and fight to end, it was 15 guys we had on our bench."
The Cougars shot 22.9 percent in the first three quarters and made 1-of-13 3-point attempts.
In the fourth quarter, Catholic shot 72 percent and made three 3-point shots. Championship MVP Josh Brodowicz scored seven of his 14 points in the fourth quarter. He finished with 10 rebounds, three steals and two assists.
"We came together as a group," Brodowicz said, "and we said if we make one more (pass) and shoot with confidence we can do it."
With that formula, Catholic started the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run, forcing three straight steals. Ahead 40-32, Cary called time. In his huddle, King said he sensed but one emotion: calm.
"They are in there talking about nothing but the game, winning for one another, fighting for one another -- and right then, I felt something special might happen."
Catholic outscored Cary 23-6 in the fourth quarter, including a 12-2 spurt to end the game. And after Sam Smith's layup tied the game with 99 seconds left, Bailey McGee made a free throw to give Catholic a 47-46 lead.
Cary missed two free throws with 7.9 seconds left, before Catholic's Jimmy Abate made two for a 49-46 lead.
"Bailey (McKee) told me right before I took them to imagine you are at Charlotte Catholic gym and that's what I did," Abate said.
After his big shots, Cary had a long shot to tie. It missed.
And Catholic celebrated, completing a tough, memorable, historic rally.
"It's just special to do it with this group of guys," Brodowicz said. "I wouldn't give (anything in) the world to be with these guys and play another season with them.
“I wish we could play for the rest of this year, but all good things come to an end, and I'm just glad we can finish on top."