Goldsboro’s three seniors – Xavion Atkinson, Jaikir Fowler and Noah Hancock – have accomplished a lot and created plenty of memories during their time in a Cougars’ uniform.
The lasting images of Wednesday night could sting for a while, but the Cougars played with the heart that they are known for.
Goldsboro saw an 11-point halftime lead disappear in a 71-70 loss against Wallace-Rose Hill on Wednesday.
“We played hard and showed grit. We played with heart. They made a run, and we made some runs. Overall, I was not displeased with our effort, and the way we played,” Goldsboro head coach Jamal Croom said. “It comes down to free throws. We shot 35 percent from the free-throw line, and in this type of game, you can’t shoot like that.”
Fowler’s layup gave the Cougars a 39-26 early in the third quarter before the Bulldogs went on a 24-10 run to close out the quarter.
Wallace-Rose Hill led 50-49 entering the fourth quarter, and the Cougars did everything they could to regain the lead.
“We were attacking the basket and not settling. We did that most of the game, and it worked for us,” Croom said. “In the second half, Wallace-Rose Hill fought back hard and told the guys ‘we have to keep fighting.”
Down 63-59 with one minute left in the game, back-to-back baskets from Atkinson tied things up at 63-63. With 12.2 seconds left, Wallace-Rose Hill’s Jaheim Fashion traveled, which gave the Cougars a chance to win the game.
However, Goldsboro was unable to score, and the game headed into overtime.
Thanks to Deontae Hooker’s layup, Goldsboro pushed ahead 65-63, but Wallace-Rose Hill responded, and with 10 seconds left, Faison drained a three-pointer to give the Bulldogs a 71-70 lead.
Goldsboro had a chance to win the game at the free-throw line, but the Cougars were unable to convert, and Wallace-Rose Hill escaped with the win.
“We experienced some highs and lows this year,” Croom said. “I’m proud of my guys, and they fought hard every game. Even though the outcome wasn’t what we expected, we moved onto the next game, and it’s just unfortunate.”
Atkinson led Goldsboro with 25 points, while Fowler scored 16 points. Hancock had six points in his final game as a Cougar.
“I told them in the locker room that regardless of the outcome of this season, ‘they’re still winners, they won two conference championships, and they have no reason to hold their heads,’” Croom said. “I told them not to forget what they accomplished because they accomplished great things.”