Rams end season 23-3 with all its losses to Jacksonville

GREENVILLE – Bidding for yet another upset – at least based on the seedings, Havelock came up short of its dream of making it to the state championship game.

While the 10th-seeded Rams rallied from 19-point deficit to pull within eight in the fourth quarter, No. 1 Jacksonville escaped with a 58-45 victory Saturday in the NCHSAA 3-A East Regional girls' basketball final at Minges Coliseum.

“It hurts,” said junior Aniylah Bryant, who had 12 points and 5 rebounds. “We wanted it, but we just didn’t play our game.”

Havelock, which finishes 23-3, had beaten a No. 7, 2 and 3 seed on the road in advancing to the regional final, but the Cardinals (23-3) withstood the Rams’ late challenge in the fourth meeting of the year between the Coastal Conference foes.

“We really expected to go to states,” said junior NyAsia Blango, who had 12 points. “It don’t matter how many times we played them. It’s who wants it more, and I guess they wanted it more tonight.”

Senior Alanna Williams echoed that.

“We just needed to want it more than them,” she said, adding it should have been an advantage for the Rams playing JHS a fourth time. “We knew them like the back of our hands. We just didn’t finish.”

JHS, which was led by Kennedy Todd-Williams’ 17 points and 10 rebounds, will take on defending state champion and second-seeded Northern Guilford (27-4) for the state title next Saturday, with the time and venue to be announced later.

It is the first trip to the state finals in girls’ basketball in JHS history.

“You get this far you don’t think about playing somebody three or four times,” Havelock coach Anna Spear said. “You think of it as a journey that a team has taken and where we’ve gotten ourselves to. It’s light’s on. It’s championship time.”

It was back and forth early, with the Rams up by a bucket and tied 16-16 before the Cardinals scored the final nine points of the first half to take a 27-16 lead at intermission.

JHS pushed its lead to 49-30 on a bucket by 6-foot-3 Nya Mitchels with 6:15 left in the game, but the Rams weren’t finished.

Havelock went on a 12-1 run behind 6 points by Blango to cut the deficit to 50-42 with exactly two minutes left.

“I thought we were going to pull it off,” Bryant said.

So did Spear.

“These guys have been resilient,” she said. “They don’t quit.”

But Mitchels scored on a follow shot to push the lead back to 10 and then JHS made 4 of 7 foul shots in the final 1:05 to seal the win.

It was a tough shooting night for the Rams, whose defense continually harassed the Cardinals into turnovers – many on the perimeter. But too often Havelock couldn’t finish at the other end.

“We just didn’t convert on our steals,” Blango said.

“We have not shot the percent that we shot tonight the whole year. We shot 22 percent, “Spear said. “Our decision-making was not what it has been, particularly these last four to five games, and we’ve been on the road and seen some really stiff, good competition.

“It was not a Ram night.”

Senior Nseya Hardin agreed.

“I’m going to miss playing with everybody because our chemistry was really good,” she said. “But this game kind of put into perspective that this is my last game and we’re not going to states.”

Havelock 12;4;13;16;–;45

Jacksonville 15;12;17;14;–;58

HAVELOCK (45)

Harden 9, Bryant 12, Brown 4, Blango 12, Williams 6, Fisher 2. Totals–14-59 12-16 45

JACKSONVILLE (58)

Todd-Williams 17, Tucker 6, I. Hill 4, Laurent 11, Mitchels 7, Gidrey 9, Gravely 4. Totals–20-51 15-22 58

3-point goals–H 5 (Bryant 2, Blango 2, Harden). J 3 (Todd-Williams 2, Laurent). Rebounds–H 25 (Bryant 5, Brown 5). J 43 (Todd-Williams 10, Mitchels 10, Laurent 8). RECORDS–H: 23-4, season complete. J: 23-3, vs. Northern Guilford in state championship game Saturday, time & site TBA.