Northside Christian beat Village Christian in Fayetteville last month by a point. In that game, Village Christian pressed, trapped and played an uptempo game against the Charlotte school.
But in Saturday’s N.C. Independent Schools’ 2A boys’ state championship game, Village Christian slowed the pace, played zone and kept Northside Christian off balance in a 59-52 win.
Northside Christian (22-7) was in the finals for the sixth straight season under coach Byron Dinkins and looked to win its fourth state title.
Dinkins said he wasn’t disappointed.
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"You have to get here to lose,” said Dinkins whose team lost four starters from last sesaon’s state finalist. “I don't know if I'm a better coach than I was two hours ago or last year. That's up to you guys (in the media). This team is who they are and they're young.
“We had some ups and downs, but they got here and you have to get here to win or lose. So I'm proud of them."
Village Christian made six of seven shots to start the game, running out to a 15-3 lead. Northside Christian got within 22-15 at halftime, but made just 2-of-9 shots in the third quarter against a zone defense. By then, Village Christian had pushed the lead to 35-21.
In the fourth quarter, Northside Christian made three 3-pointers in four possessions and got back into the game. The Knights actually had a shot to tie in the final 30 seconds, but Village Christian made 5-of-6 free throws in the final 27 seconds to win it.
Village Christian's guards dominated play. David Strother had 19 points and Jordan Ratliffe 17.
Northside got 13 points and two rebounds from Chris Martin. Martin Maide added nine points. James Lewis scored seven points and grabbed eight rebounds, and Nate Hinton had six points and seven rebounds.
Dinkins said he was pleased with his team's fight, but credited Village Christian for a unique game plan -- and execution of it.
"They didn't play the game they normally play and you have to give them some credit for that," Dinkins said. "They slowed the game down. That's a testament to them that they made the adjustments. We had to adjust, and we did it in the second half, but we just did it a little late."