ST. PAULS — For the St. Pauls boys basketball team on Monday night in the Three Rivers Conference tournament quarterfinals, the reason for the 16-point swing from the first half to the second was simple.
“We brought the effort there in the second half,” Senior guard Aaron Revels said. “We came out slack in the first half. We were down by 14 and we knew we just had to put the second half together.”
After going down by as much as 16 points in the first half to Whiteville, the Bulldogs turned things around in the final 16 minutes to secure a spot in the conference semifinals on Wednesday behind a 60-48 win.
“It just came down to the energy and that’s what we didn’t have in the first half, and I told the guys at halftime,” St. Pauls coach Corey Thompson said. “I hate that they competed like that, but it shows our toughness and will to win.”
No. 4 St. Pauls (14-11) will take on No. 1 Fairmont at East Bladen in one of the boys semifinals.
No. 5 Whiteville (9-15) opened up the game similar to how the Bulldogs opened the meeting between the two teams last week when St. Pauls used a hot start on senior night to pick up a 29-point win. The Wolfpack ran out to an 11-2 lead three minutes into the game, and then led 21-11 after one quarter.
The second quarter was much of the same for the Bulldogs as Whiteville, behind the scoring of Phillip Powell, took a 16-point lead, 37-21, with less than a minute to go in the half.
“Coach told us we needed to do better in the second half with our effort, and we came out with a little better effort,” Revels said. “I had to play my role and play more aggressive on the defensive side.”
St. Pauls’ seniors keyed a scoring run to start the third quarter that turned the tides of the game. Revels, Romeo Jordan and Sean McNeil Jr. helped lead a 17-2 run to put the Bulldogs up 40-39. St. Pauls held Whiteville to 11 points in the second half.
“I’ve got to give it to Tyreek Burden, who gave it his all in the first half. His effort laid the foundation for us in this game,” Thompson said. “Aaron and Romeo didn’t want to lose on what could be their last time playing on their home floor, barring what happens with playoff seedings.”
With both teams tied at 44 heading into the final period, St. Pauls used scoring from Revels, Emonta Smith and Keonte Taylor to go up seven points with three minutes left.
St. Pauls was led by Smith with 15 points, Revels with 13 points and 10 points from Jordan. Whiteville’s Powell scored a team-best 17 points.
With an in-county rival coming up in the next round, St. Pauls wants to make sure it gets a good practice in before taking on the conference’s top seed at East Bladen.
“We are just going to take it one game at a time and not look ahead to Fairmont,” Thompson said. “We want to just focus in now on practice tomorrow and go from there.”
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.