After clanking his first attempt, Banner step off the line to collect his thoughts. The game was on his shoulders, but it was the team he had on his mind.
“I got to hit this, I don’t want to let my team down,” Banner said went through his head.
And Banner delivered, sinking the game-winning free throw to lift St. Pauls to a 54-53 non-conference win over Swett on Monday night in Pembroke. The Bulldogs, who toppled Swett 67-38 in St. Pauls on Dec. 3, trailed through three quarters and by as much as 10 in the second half before rallying in the fourth.
“It’s a big win,” said Banner who finished with a game-high 16 points. “We’ve been down since that Lumberton loss, we feel like we should’ve beat them. I feel like we got our confidence back.”
St. Pauls fell to Lumberton, 73-60, for the seventh time in eight tries last Friday.
The emotional hangover from that loss was evident from tip as the Bulldogs (6-5) missed their first five shots and fell into a double-digit deficit in the first half.
The Rams (2-9) rode an 11-2 run to a 22-12 lead at 4:28 in the second quarter. Sophomore point guard Tyler Maynor anchored the run with five points, finishing off a 3-point play and tipping home an alley-oop pass from Kendrick Purdie. Maynor finished with a team-high 15 points for Swett. James Chavis added 14.
“That Lumberton game was a big letdown for us, we were starting to lose some confidence,” said St. Pauls coach Travis Lemanski, whose team trailed 28-20 at halftime. “So I knew maybe we’d come out flat, and we did.
“I ripped into them at halftime. I said, ‘Look, guys, ya’ll are losing your swagger. You beat this team by almost 30 at our place. It’s the same team. Go out there and play with some confidence.’”
Lemanksi’s Bulldogs got the message. Deion Gilchrist scored eight of his 13 in the third quarter, including a nifty baseline drive for a 3-point play to cut it to 43-38 at the end of three. Less than three minutes into the fourth, Banner tied the game, 44-44, for the first time since the opening minutes.
“I told the guys, we have to find a killer instinct and know how to put teams away,” Swett coach Jeremy Sampson said. “We’ve had a couple games where we had 10-point leads, had a chance to go from 10 to 15 but let them back in the game and let them hang around … We just got to find the killer instinct.”
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs locked into finishing mode, shouldered by forward Jaquell Johnson who scored six straight St. Pauls points, including a put-back with 57 seconds remaining to break a 51-51 tie. Johnson, who had 10 points, was making up for lost first-half time, as he was benched early in the second quarter for missing a dunk attempt.
“I got a no dunk rule unless we’re up by some points,” Lemanksi said. “Maybe that was a good wake-up call for him to come up and give us some good minutes in the fourth quarter.”
“It motivated me a lot,” Johnson said. “I just wanted to come out and do what was best for the team. They just kept passing me the ball and I tried to score.”
Swett’s James Chavis snaked in a runner with 35 seconds left to knot it at 53-53 before St. Pauls found itself with the game in Banner’s hands. He was fouled on a put-back attempt after snaring a rebound on a missed floater by teammate Eric Morgan.
“Kane’s a decent free throw shooter, so I thought he’d give us one,” Lemanski said. “Kane’s been big his senior year. He’s really put himself on the map this year. It was a good guy to have up there at the line.
“I’m just glad we pulled it out, it puts us above .500 again,” Lemanksi said. “That’s kind of where we’re trying to stay.”
Swett’s broken inbounds play in the final seconds led to Chavis heaving a halfcourt shot that whipped underneath the net.
St. Pauls girls top Swett
The St. Pauls girls basketball team got the best of Purnell Swett for the third straight time this season, grabbing a 35-27 road victory Monday at Swett High.
Alexis Roberson led the Lady Bulldogs (4-9) with 10 points, including four free throws down the stretch to help St. Pauls pull away. Sabeth Hunt added nine points for St. Pauls.
Colleen Chavis netted a game-high 11 points for the Lady Rams (1-10).
Reach Sports editor Kaleb Roedel at 910-272-6111 or email@example.com