VANCEBORO – The Havelock Rams couldn’t have asked for a better start to the 3A state sectional final game at West Craven Friday night.
The Rams jumped out to an 18-11 lead after one quarter and held a 31-30 lead at intermission.
Seemingly every shot was falling and they were winning on the boards through the first.
However, hot shooting hands turned to ice cubes in the second half, and West Craven’s Josh Cuthbertson took over, leading the Eagles to a 67-57 victory and a trip to next week’s regionals in Fayetteville.
The Eagles’ senior star dropped 36 points and grabbed 15 rebounds on the rival Rams.
“What can I say, it was just too much Cuthbertson,” Havelock coach Bill Fryczynski said. “The kid is a terrific player and we had them on the ropes early tonight, we just couldn’t keep it up to put them away.”
The Eagles’ 3-pointers weren’t falling from anywhere or anyone on the court, so Cuthbertson took matters into his own hands and slashed to the rim.
“It feels great as a senior to be able to go back to Fayetteville. That’s what we have been working for all year,” Josh Cuthbertson said. “I know that in my last year, my team has one more chance at Rocky Mount.”
Demetres Abrams picked up three fouls in the first nine minutes of the game and could never get into a solid groove with his 3-point shot.
Abrams still scored 18 for the game, including eight in the decisive fourth quarter.
“The man who changed this game for us was Alkeim Harley,” West Craven coach Bryan Goehring said. “He came in and played great defense along with scoring eight points and really took the tempo of the game to where we wanted it.”
This victory marks the fourth time this season that West Craven has won an on-court war with Havelock.
“I’m definitely glad that I don’t have to see them again,” Goehring said with a smile.
“I think the difference was our bench. We were just a little bit deeper than they were.”
The seventh-seeded Rams trailed 44-43 entering the final quarter but went cold to start the period, failing to hit from the field in the opening minutes. The third-seeded Eagles used a 13-3 run to lead 57-46 with 2:58 remaining. By the time Havelock’s shots started to fall, it was too late. The Rams made just four shots from the field in the fourth quarter.
Havelock, which placed second in the Coastal 3A Conference, finished the season 18-10, with four of those losses coming to West Craven (25-4).
Zack Bruns led Havelock with 22 points in his final game, while D.J. Carter and Pharoh Cooper each had 11 and Matt Prichard had nine.
Lying in wait in Fayetteville for the Eagles is perennial power Rocky Mount, who advanced with a win over C.B. Aycock Friday.
“It’s only right to me that Josh and Demetres get another shot at playing them,” Goehring said. “They’ve knocked us out of the playoffs all three years that those two have been here. We won’t be scared of them and on any given day, anything can happen.”
Cuthbertson completed his misson of not playing his final high school game at home.
“As great as this win feels against Havelock, it feels even better knowing my team has one more chance to beat Rocky Mount,” Cuthbertson said. “We’re excited to play them and are going to go to Fayetteville and give our best against them.”
West Craven (67) – Josh Cuthbertson 36, Demetres Abrams 18, Alkeim Harley 8, Tyrone Brown 3, Anthony Oates 2.
Havelock (57) – Zack Bruns 22, D.J. Carter 11, Pharoh Cooper 11, Matt Prichard 9, Kyran Bowman 4.