RED SPRINGS — For Caleel Mitchell, there was a little extra on the line Wednesday night as the Red Springs boys basketball team hosted Purnell Swett to open the Robeson County Shootout.
The sharpshooting senior, and many of the other Red Devils, knew their opponents well from either growing up or attending school together before high school. Add on top of that, Mitchell was going up against his brother, Kyler Page, in a matchups of two talented backcourts.
“It was a battle. We are family and all and we take the game seriously and we wanted to see who the best was,” Mitchell said. “We played in middle school and elementary, and we grew up and played with each other. There was a little junk talk.”
In the closing minutes, it was the experience of Red Springs led by Mitchell that rallied from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to take a 61-60 win to advance to tomorrow’s semifinals against Fairmont.
“I told them we had to go all out and press,” Red Springs coach Glenn Patterson said. “I felt like our backs against the wall and that we needed to go all out and press and see what happened. I told them good teams don’t quit.
“They showed a lot of guts doing that.”
It was a tale of two runs in the fourth quarter for Purnell Swett (3-5). The first came to start as the Rams’ five-point lead heading into the final period ballooned to a 10-point advantage with 3:57 left as Kalan Locklear’s put-back made it 54-44. Then Red Springs (8-1) defense started to fuel its offense and the momentum into the final minutes.
Behind the scoring of Mitchell, Monte’ Wilkerson and Nichorie West, three senior guards for the Red Devils, a 10-point lead vanished in less than three minutes with a 12-0 run, capped with a corner 3-pointer from Jerry McDowell, that gave Red Springs the 56-54 lead.
“It wasn’t nothing new. We are used to it and we started playing our defense the way coach told us to do,” Mitchell said. “We started to come away with steals and easy buckets.”
The defensive pressure from the Red Devils’ full-court press, mixed with the poor shot selection late doomed the Rams late. Coach Jeremy Sampson said that his team that has several first-year starters had youth to blame on the collapse.
“They came out into a press and we turned the ball over a couple times and didn’t take care of the ball for a couple of possessions,” Sampson said. “It’s a game of runs. But up 10 with three minutes to go, you’ve got to steup on the petal.”
Over the final minute, Mitchell scored seven points to hold off the Rams that used late free throws from Keegan Brayboy and a 3-pointer from Darriante Parker with six seconds left to keep the score close. Mitchell finished with 14 points, but his seven in the final three minutes of the game were his biggest.
Being one of the top shooters in the area from 3-point range, Mitchell had one 3-pointer in the game, but his shooting was an afterthought in this emotional game for him.
“I wasn’t really worried too much about scoring. I just wanted to come away with the win,” he said.
The 10-point lead in the fourth quarter wasn’t the only lead that Red Springs crawled back from. Purnell Swett built a 22-14 lead early in the second quarter that it charged back from to lead 37-30 at the half. Wilkerson scored nine points in the second quarter to help his team take the lead into halftime.
The duo of Parker and Page in the backcourt for Purnell Swett made their presence known in the third quarter, scoring eight of their teams’ 14 points. Red Springs also went cold from the floor in the third quarter, scoring four points.
“When we are playing like that, we are pretty good,” Sampson said.
Page finished with 13 points and Parker had a game-high 20 points. Wilkerson had a team-high 15 points for Red Springs.
Getting an early look at Fairmont is what Mitchell and Patterson are both looking forward to, like always.
“It’s going to be a good game. I think our team is ready for the challenge,” Patterson said. “We’ve seen that Fairmont has thrown at us over the years and I think we are more prepared this year than we have ever been.”
“It’s just an early matchup so we can get a feel for them and see how we can play them this season,” Mitchell said.
Purnell Swett will play Lake View at Fairmont today. The winner advances to the fifth-place game.
Lady Devils sneak past Purnell Swett
The Red Springs girls basketball team outlasted Purnell Swett at home, outscoring its opponents by six points in the final quarter for a four-quarter comeback, 33-28, and advance to the semifinals.
Red Springs (7-2) entered the final period down 26-25, but scored five straight to take the lead it never led go of. Purnell Swett (1-7) was led in scoring by Nakyra Mitchell with 11 points and Chelsea Jones with six points.
Taya Jones led Red Springs with 15 points and 10 rebounds and Katelyn Culbreth with nine points.
Red Springs travels to Fairmont for the semifinal matchup tomorrow and Purnell Swett plays Lake View at Fairmont tonight in the consolation round.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.