Gastonia Ashbrook’s boys basketball team came away empty-handed in its first trip to the state finals 37 years ago.
The Green Wave got another chance Saturday – and came away empty-handed again.
Ashbrook made a run at Fayetteville’s Terry Sanford High in the second half, but came up short in a 67-60 loss at Carmichael Arena for the N.C. 3A state championship.
Mark Gilbert scored 31 points and was named the game’s most valuable player for the Bulldogs (27-3), who led by as many as 12 points in the first half.
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But the Green Wave (23-4), who had four players finish in double figures, whittled away at Terry Sanford’s lead in the second half.
They were within striking range late in the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs finally put their first state title since 1966 away in the final 30 seconds.
“At halftime, I was a little worried, but this is a very strong group,” Ashbrook coach Chad Duncan said. “That’s just the way the ball bounces, I guess. These guys got here, and hopefully they can do it again and again.”
Isaiah Whaley and Z’Andre Givens had 14 points each for the Green Wave, with Malik Gingles adding 13 and Austin Mitchell 10.
After a back-and-forth first quarter, Terry Sanford pulled away in the second quarter, going up 35-23 with 1 minute, 51 seconds remaining, and would lead 35-26 at the halftime break.
However, Ashbrook rallied in the second half, cutting the Bulldogs’ lead to 45-44 by the end of the third quarter. The Green Wave would go on to take the lead twice in the fourth quarter – the last at 52-50 with 6:25 left – and were within 59-58 with 94 seconds remaining.
“We sort of hurt ourselves in the third quarter – our defense wasn’t as good, and we didn’t rebound as well,” Bulldogs coach Bill Boyette said. “But when the game was on the line, our guys came up with some huge plays.”