RED SPRINGS — Basketball teams have their “off nights” every once in a while, but the Red Springs boys basketball had one when it couldn’t afford to see shot after shot clank off the rim.
Bad shooting and a quiet stretch in the closing moments in the Red Devils’ first-round game of the NCHSAA basketball state playoffs against North Lenoir led to an early exit in the form of a 60-55 home loss Tuesday.
“I thought our kids fought considerably being undersized, but we just couldn’t hit shots tonight and didn’t trust ourselves to take the shots,” Red Springs coach Glenn Patterson said.
No. 15 Red Springs (17-9) was able to hang with the size of No. 17 North Lenoir (14-11) after halftime behind the play of its backcourt, but collectively the shooting for the Red Devils struggled.
Senior guards Caleel Mitchell and Monte’ Wilkerson combined for 11 points in the third quarter to bring Red Springs back from a five-point halftime deficit, and tied the game midway through on a Mitchell 3-pointer.
“I challenged Caleel at halftime because I didn’t feel like he was aggressive enough getting to the basket,” Patterson said. “I told him that he was a shooter and they were giving you open looks. He came out in the second half and was more aggressive to help us get back in it.”
Mitchell, knowing it could be his last time playing for Red Springs, knew he had to carry his team in the survive and advance situation. The four-year varsity player scored a game-high 21 points.
“I just tried to use that as energy to fuel me to play. I didn’t want my season to end like that so I just used it as a reason to go hard,” Mitchell said. “It was an off night. I feel like we didn’t take practice seriously.”
After the Hawks took a 42-41 lead into the final quarter, Red Springs took its first lead of the game on a pair of free throws from Jaylen Mack in the opening seconds of the frame before the visitors regained control. Mitchell had his last bucket fall with 6:30 left in the game to knot the score at 45 before the offensive woes hit the Red Devils.
Red Springs went nearly four minutes without a field goal, after tying the score at 47-all, as North Lenoir went up by as much as six points.
“Down the stretch we got what we wanted, but we didn’t trust ourselves enough to take the shot,” Patterson said.
A Jerry McDowell 3-pointer with 12 seconds left cut the lead to 58-55, but free throws from the Hawks a turnover put the game out of reach.
Wilkerson had 11 points.
North Lenoir’s Chrishawn Mitchell had a team-high 13 points as it will travel to No. 2 Clinton on Thursday for the second round.
Farmville Central runs away from Red Springs girls
After halftime, mistakes started to mount for the Red Springs girls basketball team in its 73-37 loss to Farmville Central at home in the first round of the NCHSAA state playoff game.
No. 13 Red Springs (18-8) struggled to move the ball against No. 20 Farmville Central (15-9) in the third and fourth quarter, and a poor offensive output showed on the scoreboard with 14 points coming after halftime.
Red Springs was led in scoring by Taya Jones, who closed her career with an 11-point, seven-rebound outing against the Lady Jaguars. Taylynn Atkinson had eight points.
Ja`shyrah Carmon had 12 points for Farmville Central.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.