Trojans beat GDS in OT, repeat as state champs
The Wesleyan Christian boys have overcome adversity all season. So, down five points with a minute left in regulation was right up their alley. And they did exactly what they needed to win their second straight state championship.
Theo Pinson scored seven straight points to force overtime, then Michael Buckland made key four free throws and JaQuel Richmond hit a pivotal basket in the extra period as the Trojans beat Greensboro Day 53-47 on Saturday in the NCISAA 3A final at Forsyth Country Day.
“It feels great to repeat,” Wesleyan coach Keith Gatlin said. “I’ve said it before, but we got healthy at the right time. We didn’t have our best performance, but our kids really gutted it out. We were determined to not let anyone take our championship.”
Pinson finished with 15 points to lead the second-seeded Trojans (25-9) and was the team’s lone selection to the all-state team. Buckland and Deshaunte Carelock each had 12 points. Darius Moore had 17 points while Peter Agba added 14 for the top-seeded Bengals (30-5).
“We played as good a game as we possibly could’ve,” said Greensboro Day coach Freddy Johnson, in his 38th year. “Theo had a make a pretty tough shot, and Trevor Mayo was on him. In overtime, they made a couple big plays, and we missed a couple wide-open shots.
“We played team basketball (in the first half). Honestly, for us, I don’t think the second half was any different than the first. As Keith said, if they play their best, they’re hard to beat. In that span, they played their best. Think about it, with the talent they have …”
After Wesleyan rallied from a 26-20 halftime deficit to lead 36-35 heading to the fourth, Greensboro Day scored six straight points (two on a technical foul called on the Trojans) to lead 43-38 with 1:06 left. That’s when Pinson took the game on his shoulders.
“Basically, we just knew this was it,” he said. “There’s nothing else. We couldn’t hold anything back. We had to go out knowing we played as hard as we could. I knew when I got that steal and dunk, that was our chance. We had to take the opportunity and did.”
Pinson made the dunk to pull within three, then on the next possession grabbed an offensive rebound, scored the putback and drew a foul but missed the would-be tying free throw with 41.4 seconds left. After the Bengals hit two free throws, he hit a 3-pointer from straight on with 19 seconds left to tie it.
Greensboro Day had a look at the end of regulation but missed it. In overtime, Agba made two early free throws for the Bengals. But Wesleyan scored the final eight to take full control. Two free throws by Buckland and a spinning floater in the key by Richmond gave it a 49-47 lead with 1:38 left.
After the Bengals missed two shots from the field, Buckland and Pinson sealed it at the line with four foul shots in the final 30 seconds.
“We just all kept our heads up,” Buckland said. “We’ve been through a lot this year, and no one’s going to tear us down. We just had confidence in each other. Theo hit that big shot, and we just stayed together.”