Malik Livingston's running bank shot at the buzzer saved St. Pauls from a fourth-quarter meltdown after Red Springs' Corey Okonkwo provided his team with its first lead of the second half with a three-point play on the previous possession.
Deion Gilchrist dribbled down the floor with less than 10 seconds left and knifed his way into the lane to find a cutting Livingston for the game-winning play and 44-43 victory.
"The play was drawn up for Deion but it just so happened that I got the ball in my hands and banked it in," Livingston said.
St. Pauls (4-3) led by as many as 12 in the second half before Red Springs (1-7) ended the game on a 13-5 run. Quinn Lowery's layup with 42 seconds remaining pulled the Red Devils within one at 41-40, the closest Red Springs had been since the four-minute mark of the second quarter.
Livingston made 1-of-2 free throws at the other end to keep the window open for Okonkwo's hoop-and-harm with 9.8 ticks left that gave the Red Devils what they thought was a first-round victory.
"There was a mental letdown in the corner and the kid made a great shot," Red Springs coach Glenn Patterson said. "During the timeout before Corey's free throw, I told the kids to guard Deion and Malik because we knew one of those two guys was going to shoot it."
Livingston's final shot was one of the few bright spots during a dreadful 17-point second half for the Bulldogs. St. Pauls got away from a transition rhythm it established in the first half and turned the ball over multiple times down the stretch to keep Red Springs within striking distance.
"The third quarter felt like it took forever and part of the sloppy offense was my fault," St. Pauls coach Travis Lemanski said. "After Red Springs made a run, I just told the guys to keep their heads up and win the game. We led from start to finish, so it was up to us to make that one play count and get out of there with a win."
With the win, the Bulldogs move on to Friday's semifinal against West Bladen at Purnell Swett, a familiar foe St. Pauls beat by 8 in Bladenboro on Nov. 27.
"West Bladen has some talented guards, so it'll be a good test," Lemanski said.
Red Springs looks to regroup at home tonight against Purnell Swett in the first game of the loser's bracket. The winner moves on to Saturday's fifth-place game at UNCP. Patterson hopes Okonkwo's season-high of 16 points and 11 rebounds is a sign of things to come from his emerging senior.
"We saw something early on and wante dto keep getting thr ball in Corey's hands," Patterson said. "He scored when he wanted to score. I just hope that's an indication of how he's going to play the rest of the year. We need him to play that way every night to be successful."
Though disappointing, Patterson puts a one-point rivalry loss in perspective for a team still searching for its identity. Four of seven losses this season have come against Gray's Creek and South View, teams wit a combined record of 11-2.
Private power Flora Macdonald handed the Red Devils two more defeats.
"We finally met a team on our level tonight and that's a good thing," Patterson said. "We've played some really tough games early and we'll see St. Pauls again. We got to make adjustments and do a better job of executing. I keep telling everybody we'll be fine and I really believe that."
McPhaul, Murchison lead Red Springs' girls
Jasmine Murchison hit a pair of clutch 3-pointers and Robyn McPhaul added back-to-back key buckets in the final minute Wednesday night as Red Springs' girls turned up the defense in the second half to beat St. Pauls, 46-37, in the first round of the Robeson County Shootout.
McPhaul finished with a game-high 15 points and six assists while Murchison pitched in 13 points and seven rebounds. The Lady Red Devils (4-3) held St. Pauls scoreless the final three minutes of the contest and outscored the Lady Bulldogs 28-20 after intermission.
Red Springs moves on to face West Bladen at Purnell Swett on Friday at 6 p.m. The winner clinches a berth in Saturday's Shootout final at UNCP.
BOYS: St. Pauls 44, Red Springs 43
RS 11 9 6 17 -- 43; SP 14 13 7 10 -- 44
Red Springs — Corey Okonkwo 16, Quinn Lowery 11, Baker 7, McGeachey 7, McClane 2. St. Pauls — Malik Livingston 14, Deion Gilchrist 10, Johnson 8, Banner 6, Burden 4, Canady 2. 3-Point Goals — SP: Gilchrist. Technicals — Red Springs bench; St. Pauls bench. Fouled Out — RS: McGeachey. Records — St Pauls 4-3, Red Springs 1-7.
GIRLS: Red Springs 46, St. Pauls 37
RS 8 7 11 17 -- 46; SP 4 13 10 10 -- 37
Red Springs — Robyn McPhaul 15, Jasmine Murchison 13, Pecina 8, Snow 4, Norris 4, Harris 2. St. Pauls — D. Locklear 8, Roberson 8, Johnson 7, K. Locklear 6, Ta. Glover 5, Hunt 3. 3-Point Goals — SP: Roberson, Johnson; RS: Murchison 2, Pecina. Records — St. Pauls 2-5, Red Springs 4-3.