Spartans blaze trail to third round
Wed. February 27, 2013 at 11:48 p.m. | By Mike Duprez
Central Davidson’s Derek Chavis drives past Piedmont’s Brady Meggs (left) and Cameron Tripp (11) for a layup attempt during their second-round 2-A state playoff game on Wednesday at Central. (Photo by Mike Duprez/The Dispatch)
Central Davidson coach Brian Hege called it courage.
Central Davidson point guard Derek Chavis called it composure.
Central Davidson’s red-clad, boisterous student section called it a win.
Chris Pompey led the way with 18 points despite sitting out almost the entire first half with foul trouble, Will Ramsey added 18 and a host of other Spartans made key contributions in a rousing, history-making 63-54 victory over Piedmont in the second round of the 2-A basketball state playoffs on Wednesday.
Central (23-3) has already set a school record for wins. The Spartans are in the third round for the second time in school history, having gone that far in 2008.
“You always want to be playing your best basketball at the end,” Hege said. “And I feel like we’re just now hitting our peak. We’ll keep trying to get better.”
The Spartans, second-seeded in the Midwest, host third-seeded Trinity in the third round on Friday.
But the Spartans got put to the test in a big way.
Piedmont (21-6) had scored nine straight points to end the third quarter, wiping out nearly all of a 10-point deficit. Central had to enter the fourth quarter with the issue very much in doubt.
That’s when the Spartans took charge.
With the score 46-45 and Piedmont threatening to take the lead, Pompey yanked down a rebound and drove coast-to-coast for a runner, giving his team a three-point edge. Moments later, the 6-6 Pompey executed a spin move off Piedmont’s 6-6 center Cameron Tripp and Chavis fed his teammate a perfect lob pass. Pompey laid it in for a 50-45 lead with 4:27 left.
Turnabout, as they sometimes say, is fair play, as Pompey returned the favor and created a Piedmont turnover by poking the ball away. Chavis grabbed the ball and finished with his own coast-to-coast bucket, making it 52-45. Hege pumped his fists as Piedmont coach Rudi Heath called a timeout.
“We just had to keep our composure and we had to calm down and just run our offense,” Chavis said. "We’ve got good communication out there. We’re getting better and better.”
Chavis went on to make 3-of-4 free throws down the stretch and when John Hanes fed Pompey for a layup to extend Central’s lead to 57-49 with 2:03 left, things were looking pretty good for the Spartans.
There was one more bump along the way as Piedmont guard Qualen Blakney, who had 16 points, drilled a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 57-52 with 1:37 remaining. Then the Panthers forced a five-second violation when Central couldn’t inbound the ball.
Blakney attempted to drive the lane but Central’s defense bowed up once again, denying the shot.
Pompey, who scored nine of his points in the fourth quarter, turned Blakney’s miss into a fast break layup, was fouled and hit the free throw to complete the and-one to seal the deal.
“We just played with a lot of courage,” Hege said. “We were not going to lose this game. You could see it in our faces. The kids were locked in. I’m just proud of them. We collectively won that game.”
Tripp led Piedmont, the second-place team in the Rocky River Conference, with 17 points.
“Give them credit,” Heath said. “It was good defense on their part. We kind of forced it up there in the end. But give them credit for the way they play defense.”
And give the Spartans credit for adapting.
Pompey drew his second foul just one minute and 23 seconds into the game and spent the rest of the first half on the bench. Jared Walls took his place and scored all eight of his points in the first half, giving the Spartans a huge lift.
“We can play with Chris,” Hege said. “We can play without Chris. We understand that. That’s the mark of a good team.”
Ramsey was on fire as well, hitting an early 3-pointer to give Central a 7-2 lead just over a minute into the game. But the Panthers rallied behind Tripp, Blakney and 6-5 forward Brady Meggs, who had 12 points.
The teams were deadlocked 14-14 after the first quarter and Central led 31-26 at halftime when Ramsey hit a floater at the buzzer.
Pompey’s layup gave Central its biggest lead at 44-34 midway through the third quarter.
Hege allowed himself a few minutes to celebrate and then was texting East Davidson coach Matt Jacobs, his high school teammate at Ledford, looking for game film on Trinity.
“Trinity has been a top-10 team all year, just like we are,” Hege said. “But we’ve got them here. We’re going to get to work on them tonight.”
Mike Duprez can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 218 or firstname.lastname@example.org.