South Stokes traveled six hours to Hiwassee Dam on Thursday, but the ride was worth the 77-40 win and an opportunity to play in the third round of the state playoffs, a first since 2009.
The Sauras didn’t fare as well on Saturday. In spite of their efforts, South fell 71-60 to Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy, ending their impressive 20-win season.
“This has been one of the more enjoyable teams that I have coached,” said Saura coach Jason Clark. “They are a great group of young men. They represented South Stokes, themselves, their families and coaches with class all four years. Prep is a good team. I can’t take anything away from our kids tonight. They fought hard, but we just had too many turnovers and missed free throws. We can’t do that and expect to beat teams that are really good.”
The Phoenix jumped out of the gate with two three-pointers from Chaz Gwyn and a pair of free throws by conference player of the year, Daivien Williamson. The Sauras were able to close the gap to four points, but Prep’s 9-2 spurt at the end of the quarter had them up 22-11.
South’s defense kept the home team scoreless in the second period for more than four minutes and they trailed 31-24 at the half behind senior Ben Bowen’s eight points.
In the locker room, Clark told the players to keep grinding.
“They were applying tough pressure and blocked more shots against us in this game than the other two combined. They protected the rim well tonight. We had to keep pushing and play hard and I felt we did.”
Bowen left off where he stopped in the second quarter and made the Sauras first two shots of the half. Senior PJ Samuels connected on two free throws and cut Prep’s lead to 35-32 in the first three minutes of the period, but then South went cold. They only managed six more points over the next five minutes and trailed 50-38 on an 11-2 run by the Phoenix.
The Sauras fought hard in the last quarter and cut into the Prep’s advantage, but seven free throws in the last minute of the game sealed the win. Winston-Salem Prep will advance to one of the final eight teams in the state 1A tournament.
Bowen added 19 points and 17 rebounds in his last performance as a Saura. Fellow senior Wesley Misenheimer tallied 13. Williamson led the Phoenix with 30.
Sauras defeat Hiwassee Dam
The Sauras jumped on the home team by nine points in the first quarter and held a 36-17 advantage by halftime.
South extended their lead in the third quarter by eight points and then handed the game over to the Saura subs. Senior John Williams had nine points in the fourth quarter to help the team with the 37 point win.
“I thought we played well considering the long bus ride down there,” said the Saura coach. “The kids played through some tough calls and kept attacking instead of playing passive. They really focused on Ben (Bowen), but Tyliq (Hairston), Brady (Dudley), Wesley (Misenheimer) and PJ (Samuels) really stepped up.”
Dudley led the Sauras with 20 points, while Samuels added 12 and Hairston 10. No player from the Eagles finished in double digit scoring.
The Sauras finished their memorable season 20-8 (7-3 in 1A Northwest Conference) and finished second to Prep (24-3) in conference play.
Robert Money can be reached at 336-749-1193.