Throwback Basketball Final: North Mecklenburg 86, A.L. Brown 84 (2OT)
By Mike London
CHINA GROVE — As a first half unfolds, Larry Patterson just tries not to fall asleep on the bench.
But when the bell for the second half rings, Patterson straps a blue headband on his shaved head and perks up. He’s instant offense — a microwave — and he keyed a wild comeback by North Meck in an 86-84 double-OT victory against A.L. Brown in the championship game of Scooter Sherrill’s Alumni Throwback Tournament.
“They always labeled me a second-half player,” Patterson said. “Every coach I ever played for said the same thing — that I really didn’t come to play until the second half. My intensity seems to rise.”
Patterson played collegiately at Winston-Salem State and will be inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame this year, along with the other Rams who won back-to-back CIAA crowns in 1999 and 2000.
Patterson did Winston-Salem State proud on Sunday. Even Earl “The Pearl” Monroe never shot the ball straighter.
Patterson’s heroics included three ice-water free throws with no time left on the clock just to get North Meck into overtime. North Meck was down 18 points with seven minutes left, and its hopes of a rally appeared to be roughly 100-to-1.
“I just kept telling our guys not to quit on me because anything can happen,” said North Meck leader Titus Ivory, the former Penn State star. “It was a long road back, but then L.P. started making big shots. That opened up the inside.”
Jamie Skeen, a 6-foot-9 scoring machine who will make a living playing pro basketball for the next decade or so, poured in 32 points for North Meck.
Patterson, scoreless in the first half, finished with 17 points. Ivory had 15.
A.L. Brown had its own Patterson — Avery — and he hit ungodly shots for the Wonders from all corners of the Carson High gym to rain in 32 points.
A.L. Brown coach Shelwyn Klutz felt a little bit like Team USA did in 1972 when the Soviets swiped the Olympic gold medal in Munich.
Time stood still in the last minute of regulation, and there was an officiating miscue that hurt the Wonders, but the human element is part of it. Everyone did their best. Klutz understood.
“There was a little controversy at the end, but it was a great tournament and I’m just proud of how our guys battled,” he said. “We still had every opportunity to win if we make our free throws.”
An ankle injury knocked out Brown point guard Ian Rogers (10 points) early in the second half. That slowed down the Wonders and proved an equalizer for North Meck not having Reggie Graham, a quick guard with great vision. Without Graham, North Meck, which scored 107 points against Carson, had to grind it out in a halfcourt tug-of-war. North Meck couldn’t hit outside, and that allowed Brown to play zone and double and triple-team Skeen with muscular football bodies anytime he touched the ball.
Meanwhile, Brown’s Patterson and Jeremy Jones (14 points) were sizzling from long range. When Patterson drilled a 3-pointer for a 57-39 lead with 7:02 on the clock, he happily left his arm dangling in the air, and it looked over.
But that was Larry Patterson’s cue to take over for NM.
“When your back is to the wall, that’s when you find out what you’re made of,” he said.
Brown missed three front ends of one-and-ones, and all of that huge lead disappeared.
Still, two Avery Patterson free throws with five seconds left gave Brown a 70-67 lead.
Klutz wanted his team to foul, but it fouled too late. Larry Patterson got up sort of a shot attempt as he was grabbed far from the bucket. Then he nailed his three free throws to force overtime.
Ivory’s fine pass to Keith Skeen, Jamie’s brother, knotted the game at the end of the first OT period. Then Jamie Skeen dominated the second OT by scoring nine points.
“Whether we played man or zone, they were determined to get it in to the 6-9 guy on every single possession,” Klutz said. “We just didn’t have any answer for Jamie.”
It was a sweet victory for Ivory, whose team was eliminated 58-54 by West Rowan last summer.
“I told Scooter we’d have a surprise for everybody this year,” Ivory said. “This time we brought our big man.”