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Hoke Advances to Eastern Region Title Game

March 2, 2012
Hoke County High School

Hoke County's Tarique Thompson wasn't with the Bucks this summer when they met Pine Forest during offseason workouts.

After Thursday night, Pine Forest coach David May likely wished Thompson was still missing from the Buck lineup.

Thompson sparked Hoke to a 10-point lead in the second half, and the Bucks held off a fierce Trojan rally for a 49-47 win in the 4-A Eastern Regional semifinals at the Crown Arena.

The win sends Hoke (25-2) into Saturday's 4 p.m. regional final against Wilmington New Hanover. New Hanover (28-1) advanced by winning Thursday's first regional semifinal over Raleigh Millbrook, 42-40.

Thursday's game was played before a standing-room-only crowd at the arena. Fans standing in line outside the arena at 9 p.m. still trying to get in were turned away. Unofficial estimates were some 200 spectators were unable to get in the game.

They missed a classic that went down to the final shot. "They've won all sorts of ways,'' Hoke coach Quame Patterson said of the Trojans. "We were just trying to stay in the game, to see if we got a win when the buzzer went off.''

The final outcome wound up in the hands of Pine Forest's leading scorer for the season, Alex Bradley. Bradley played with flu-like symptoms and May said had it not been a playoff game, he would have benched him.

The Trojans spent most of the fourth quarter trying to erase the 44-34 deficit Thompson had helped create in the second half. The door to a possible game-winning shot was opened with 38.9 seconds left when Hoke's Kimane Freeman made one of a pair of free throws, giving Hoke a 49-47 lead. Pine Forest tried to set up for the final shot in the last 13 seconds. "If we had to write it all over, I'd do it again,'' said May. "My best player, game on the line, in his hand, I'd do it every time.''

Bradley said he wanted to drive to the basket first, but found the middle clogged as Hoke seemed to leave him open for a 3-point attempt. He wound up with the ball on the right wing and launched a 3-point try that he had made countless times during the season. "I thought it was going in,'' Bradley said. "It was a good shot. In and out.''

May felt Hoke got a lot of second chance points in the run that gave them the 10-point lead. That and having to put E.J. Williams on the bench with foul trouble during that stretch hurt the Trojans.

Patterson said the run in the second half that gave his team the 10-point lead was typical of Hoke's season. "We've been doing that all year,'' he said. "When we get on a roll I don't think anyone can beat us. It starts with transition and defense and getting layups and wide-open shots.''

Thompson said he was just trying to hustle more than he did in the first half during the second-half run. "I wanted to get my team more involved, not take crazy shots and box out,'' he said. "Our crowd was in it and they were motivating us to get the victory.''

"Give credit to Hoke,'' May said. "They just made more plays than we did tonight.'' "Tonight just wasn't our night. That's the cruel reality of the playoffs.''

Patterson watched some of New Hanover's win over Millbrook in Thursday's first game and is concerned about the Wildcats' size and the fact they have a number of players who can score. "They seemed like a well-coached team,'' he said.

Bradley led a balanced Pine Forest attack with 13 points. Isaac Lyerly scored 11 and Naquon Smith added 10. Thompson was high for Hoke and the game with 18. Brennan Wright came off the bench to score 13 while Darius Book added 10.

Hoke County 49, Pine Forest 47

HOKE COUNTY- Parker 5, Tarique Thompson 18, Freeman 1, Melvin 2, Darius Book 10, Harris, McKoy, Brennan Wright 13, Blue.

PINE FOREST- McEachern 5, Alex Bradley 13, E.J. Williams 8, Isaac lyerly 11, Naquon Smith 10, Corbett, Hall, Ray, T. Smith, Jensen. Fouled out: None Technical fouls: None 3-point goals: H - Parker. PF - McEachern, Bardley 2, Lyerly.

Records: Hoke County 25-2, Pine Forest 28-2

You can see the story at http://www.fayobserver.com along with some photos of the game.

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