Wonders fall in fourth quarter
By Mike London
KANNAPOLIS ó Bullock Gym was energized Monday with a rare full house for basketball. For 29-plus minutes, so were A.L. Brown’s Wonders.
Brown led most of the way against rival Concord in an upset bid that would have shaken Concord’s stranglehold on the SPC. Down the stretch, however, the third-ranked Spiders acted like they were the team that was supposed to win ó and they did.
Concord’s 62-58 victory was its 11th straight against Brown.
“For 3 1/2 quarters, we did a great job handling their pressure, but then we panicked a little bit at the end and let them off the hook,” disappointed A.L. Brown coach Shelwyn Klutz said.
The Wonders haven’t broken through in the series since they took an overtime decision at Bullock Gym in the 2004 playoffs.
The Spiders (16-1, 10-0) got only two points from 7-foot-1 junior David Wishon and shooter Griffin Templeton’s bombs weren’t falling as regularly as they normally do, but relentless 6-2 sophomore Jacquise Moore lifted the Spiders with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
Jacob Newman, Demarcus Phifer and T.J. Johnson scored 14 points each for the Wonders (8-6, 6-4). It was a season high for Johnson.
Brown came into the game oozing confidence after four straight wins, including road victories against SPC contenders Sun Valley and Marvin Ridge.
The Wonders slowed down Concord with a zone defense, and the Spiders couldn’t force the flurry of deflections, turnovers and layups they always thrive on.
“We just weren’t on the same page in the first half,” said Concord coach Scott Brewer, who won the 3A state championship in 2000 when he coached at Central Cabarrus. “I think the college-sized floor here messed up our spacing because we’d have three guys in one defense and two playing another. We’ve got a ‘6’ defense and a ‘5’ defense. We don’t have a ‘5 1/2,’ but it looked like that’s what we were trying to play. I had to call two timeouts in the first quarter, and that’s something I haven’t had to do in 10 years.”
The Wonders took advantage of the confusion and drew unlimited energy from Johnson, an athletic receiver who looked like he wanted to duplicate the football team’s 50-point victory over the Spiders. Johnson was a maniac in the first half, clearing the defensive glass with help from Newman and Vance Chapman and taking the ball to the rim on offense.
Down 8-2 early, Concord fought its way to a 26-24 lead late in the second quarter, but Johnson provided four quick points on a stickback and a steal. Jacques Deese beat the buzzer with a layup, and the Wonders sprinted to the locker room ahead 30-26.
It didn’t turn around for the Spiders right away after halftime. They shot 4-for-14 in the third quarter and trailed 45-37 heading to the final eight minutes.
“We’re fortunate we’ve got some guys like Jacquise and Roger (Smith) who can turn it up,” Brewer said. “In the fourth quarter, they stepped up their intensity level.”
Concord pressed harder and pounded the boards harder in the fourth quarter. Templeton hit a 3-pointer early in the quarter, but Brown still led by five before Moore hit a clutch 3 with 4:48 remaining to tighten things up.
Brown’s last lead was at 51-50 when Newman hit two free throws with 2:42 remaining.
Moore was 6-for-6 from the foul line in the fourth quarter, while Brown missed big ones. Johnson missed a pair and Phifer missed the front end of a one-and-one as the Spiders pulled ahead.
The killer play for Brown was a Spider miss on which two Wonders battled each other for the rebound. When the ball popped loose, Concord’s Jalen Cannaday stuck it in for a three-point lead. He had eight of his nine points in the final quarter.
“The effort was definitely there from our guys,” Klutz said. “It came down to a couple of rebounds we didn’t get and a couple of free throws we didn’t make.”
Concord led by five when Phifer, who averages 20-plus points, hit his second 3-pointer with one second left. Brown was able to foul after a timeout, but Cannaday hit two free throws to ice the Spiders’ victory.
“Shelwyn is doing a great job with this team,” Brewer said. “They’ve surprised some teams, and they’re a lot better than most people thought they would be.”
NOTES: Brown is home against Parkwood tonight. … Salisbury basketball star Bubbles Phifer was on hand and greeted Concord’s Moore, her boyfriend, with a postgame hug. … There were plenty of other celebrities on hand, including Milwaukee Brewers farmhand Garrett Sherrill and former Davidson and Concord coach Bo Brickels. … Concord has a big SPC game Friday at second-place Sun Valley. “We win that one,” Brewer said, “and we’re three games up on the world.”
CONCORD (62) ó Moore 19, Cannaday 9, Templeton 8, Rucker 8, Smith 7, Brenk 5, Gridine 4, Wishon 2, Knorr, Horton.
A.L. BROWN (58) ó Phifer 14, Newman 14, Johnson 14, Deese 7, Chapman 5, Fesperman 2, Massey 2, Watson, Falls.
Concord 16 10 11 25 ó 62
A.L. Brown 18 12 15 13 ó 58