A thrilling end to a thrilling game, nothing else could describe Wilson Preparatory Academy’s 70-66 win against Princeton in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A boys’ basketball playoffs on Thursday evening.
The Tigers rallied from eight points down in the fourth quarter to advance to the third round.
Down 68-66 with 17.2 seconds left in the game, Princeton had an opportunity to tie the game or take back the lead, but the Bulldogs could not convert.
“I saw a heck of a ballgame with two very good basketball teams, and they punched and counterpunched all game,” Princeton head coach David Cobb said. “I can’t find fault with the way my guys played, and I’m proud of them. It’s a shame you have to meet somebody this good this early, but that’s the way it worked.
“I hurt more because I’m not going to be with them anymore.”
The game started off on a good note for Princeton. The Bulldogs jumped out to an 18-14 lead after one quarter.
A basket from Zion McPhatter pushed Princeton ahead 34-24 midway through the second quarter, but Wilson Prep hung around and used a 10-5 run to cut the deficit to 39-34 at halftime.
“What I’m proud of is that we took them out of their favorite defense early,” Cobb said. “We just busted it, and we were breaking and getting layups.
“I thought we executed very well.”
Wilson Prep attempted to turn the tables in the third quarter, and a basket from Devyn Bullock allowed the Tigers to grab a 47-45 lead late in the third quarter.
However, Princeton battled back and used an 8-3 run to take a 59-51 lead at the end of the third quarter. Things seemed to be going Princeton’s way until the final eight minutes.
With 1:45 left in the game, the Tigers took back the lead on a basket from Makhi Eaton. Wilson Prep led 67-63 with less than a minute to play when Jacob McCain hit a three-pointer to cut Wilson Prep’s lead down to 67-66.
The Tigers missed two free-throw attempts with 40 seconds left, which gave Princeton a chance to win or tie the game, but the Bulldogs were unable to score, and with three seconds left, Wilson Prep’s Christian Battle drained two free throws to ice the game.
“We went toe-to-toe with an extremely talented basketball team,” Cobb said. “There were two or three loose balls that didn’t bounce our way, and they got layups off of them, but that’s basketball,” Cobb said.
Jaheim Taylor led Princeton with 19 points, Tyrese Whitley scored 17 points, McPhatter added 11 points, while Aden Taylor contributed eight points.
Jaheim Taylor, Whitley, McPhatter, McCain, Justyn Edmundson, Hunter Bailey and Ethan Potts all played their final game in a Bulldogs’ jersey, and Cobb said his seniors had left an incredible legacy at Princeton.
“This senior class means everything to me, I couldn’t find the records, but it’ll be hard-pressed for me to think there is a senior class that’s won more than them,” Cobb said. “I know there’s never been three straight conference championships, they’re 36-0 in the Carolina 1A Conference, and they’re special.”