Eagles 'just want to keep playing'
Warren County watched its 14-point advantage in the third quarter dwindle to two Monday against Carrboro in the first round of the state playoffs.
The visiting Jaguars cut it to 49-47 with 2:46 to play and trailed by four before the Eagles got five points in 22 seconds from Charlie Williams and Tyler Thompson to regain momentum.
No. 11 Warren County (19-6) held on 62-50, advancing to visit No. 6 Clinton (22-5), which staved off No. 27 West Bladen 72-69 in triple overtime. The Eagles and Dark Horses will meet on Wednesday in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 2-A playoffs.
The win marks the first time in at least several years that the Eagles have advanced past Round 1 and the first in Warren County head coach Wanda Thompson’s tenure.
“It’s just exciting to be moving on,” said Wanda Thompson. “We just want to keep playing.”
“It means everything,” said Eagles senior Justin Fitts, who finished with eight points, five rebounds and four assists. “My whole four years of playing ball here, I never thought we’d make it this far. It’s always some situation that stops us from getting there, but now it feels good.”
Leading 51-47, Warren County rebounded a missed Carrboro 3-pointer and swiftly turned it into two points of its own. Jaylen Jones sent a pass forward for Williams, who finished with a layup in transition.
Then the Jaguars missed a free throw and Warren County’s Tyler Thompson let fly a shot unapproved by his mother and coach.
“Don’t shoot it,” Wanda screamed at Tyler from the sidelines.
Tyler Thompson nailed the 3 from the left corner, giving the Eagles a 56-47 lead with 1:05 to play.
“I had to let that one go. I had to,” said Tyler Thompson.
“I told him, ‘It was a good shot, but don’t shoot it again,’” said Wanda Thompson. “Tyler was open in the corner, had his feet set. When that 3 went down, I think the momentum really started swinging our way. It energized the guys. It was a clutch 3.”
Tyler Thompson finished with 12 points and shot 6-of-6 from the foul line.
Williams led the Eagles with 18 points and A.J. Alston had 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Williams got loose on another fast break and finished with a lay-in with 49 seconds left to put Warren County ahead 58-49.
“That’s what good teams do,” Williams said of Carrboro’s comeback. “They make a push at the end. We just had to stay composed, keep playing our type of ball.”
Warren County had a clear advantage in athleticism. Williams said the Eagles wanted to push the tempo against the Jags.
Warren County led 27-21 at halftime.
Wanda Thompson said the work the Eagles have put in has paid off after a disappointing exit in the first round last season.
“They’re excited and they want to keep playing,” said Wanda Thompson. “It means a lot for the community and the school. I think these guys have represented them well.”
Notes: Former UNC basketball star and current broadcaster Eric Montross was in attendance watching his son, Andrew, a Carrborro sophomore. Eric Montross, a member of the Tar Heels’ 1993 national championship team, posed for a few pictures with fans after the game
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