GREENSBORO – Another game, another last-second victory for Lake Norman's boys basketball team, thanks to Trey Ford.
Ford banked in a long 3-pointer at the buzzer Sunday to give the Wildcats a 61-58 win over Greensboro Page in the N.C. High School Athletic Association's Western Regional 4A boys final.
“We kept battling and battling, and had the toughness to grind out two close games in a row,” said Lake Norman coach Brandon Jolly, whose team will play Apex (22-7) for the state title next Saturday in Raleigh.
“Hopefully, we've got one more left in us for Raleigh.”
Kishawn Pritchett, named the tournament's most valuable player, had 18 points and 13 rebounds, and Hunter Seacat added 18 points for the Wildcats (28-1).
But the hero turned out to be Ford, a 5-foot-11 junior who was in the right place at the right time.
With the score tied 58-58, Jolly's plan put the ball in the hands of Pritchett, whose buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave the Wildcats a 45-43 victory over Ardrey Kell in the regional semifinal Thursday.
But with 10 seconds left, Page's Jeremy Harris got his hand on the ball as Pritchett began driving towards the basket, setting up a wild scramble for possession.
The ball rolled to Seacat, who tried to get off a jumper only to get stripped by Xavier Hill-Mais. It then squirted to Ford, who put up a 23-footer just tenths of a second before the buzzer.
The ball banked off the backboard, hit the rim and dropped through, setting up a raucous celebration on the court at the Greensboro Coliseum Special Events Center as Ford was mobbed by his teammates and coaches.
“I knew time was running down, so I had to get a shot off,” Ford said. “Once it hit the backboard, I thought it was going to go (in).”
Sunday's game shouldn't have been that close for Lake Norman, which used a 17-0 run in the second quarter to pull ahead 42-25 at the halftime break. But the Pirates (28-3) responded with a 18-0 run in the third quarter to get back in the game, and were ahead 55-51 with 4:15 remaining.
However, the Wildcats caught a break when Hill-Mais was whistled for both a personal and technical foul. Pritchett made 3 of 4 free throws, and Seacat hit back-to-back layups to put Lake Norman up 58-55 with 2:44 left.
Ty Graves – who led Page with 15 points – hit a long 3-pointer with 2:29 left to tie the score at 58-58, and the teams both turned the ball over on ensuing possessions to set up the Wildcats' last chance.
“To be bluntly honest, one official dictated how the game ended up,” Pirates coach James Abell said. “I'm so upset for my kids because they fought too hard to have it suddenly taken from them like that.
“But I can't blame Lake Norman – they shot the ball well and made the plays at the end.”