CHAPEL HILL – For the second consecutive season, the fourth-year Cuthbertson boys basketball team fell in the Class 2A state title game against one of the state’s most established programs.
On March 16, the Cavs fell to Kinston, 56-53, at the University of North Carolina’s Dean E. Smith Center. After leading the game for the first three quarters, Kinston surged ahead on a 13-2 run. Although the Cavs pulled within one with a little more than a minute to play, the Vikings survived for the win after Cuthbertson guard Emmitt Afam’s game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer hit off the rim, an outcome painfully reminiscent of last year’s 58-55 loss to the Vikings.
“It hurts, considering it’s basically the same way we lost last year, the same shot and everything,” said Cuthbertson forward Isiah Cureton.
Junior guard Shelton Mitchell led the Cavs with 22 points. Justin Austin had eight points and seven rebounds, while Afam contributed seven points and seven rebounds. Isiah Cureton poured in nine points.
As gut-wrenching as the loss was, Cavs coach Mike Helms said that he’s enjoyed the two-year rivalry with Kinston. Including December’s High School OT holiday tournament in Raleigh, Kinston leads the series, 2-1, with each game decided by just three points.
“We’ve really enjoyed competing with (Kinston),” said Helms. “Sometimes you get games during the regular season – and we talk all the time about how those games, when you’re winning big, they’re no fun. The games that you enjoy are these kinds of games. They hurt to lose, but these are the games that you want to be in.”
The loss marked the end of a strong run by the Cavs’ nine-man senior class that recorded a 97-25 record in the program’s first four years, including a 60-6 mark over the past two seasons.
“That first year, we knew that freshman class was going to be special,” Helms said. “They really have. They’ve been special, and they’ve set the tone for this program for years to come.”
Mitchell added that although the team wanted to send the seniors out as champs, last week’s loss didn’t diminish what they accomplished.
“We talked (before the game) about how this is our last game we’ll play together and we wanted to send (the seniors) out on the right note,” said Mitchell, a Wake Forest recruit. “It just didn’t happen like we wanted it to, but overall I’d say it was a great season and two years.”