By RICH LEVEY
Tideland News Writer
Swansboro High School’s varsity basketball team fell to the Richlands Wildcats 49-46 Saturday in the third-place game in the Onslow County Classic.
The tournament was played Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Jacksonville High School.
The Pirates posted a 1-2 record in the tourney and fall to 5-7 for the season.
Swansboro appeared on the verge of defeating their East Central Conference rival to capture third place, which would have been the team’s best finish in the event.
The Pirates had a 40-31 lead heading into the final quarter. But the Wildcats went on an 18-6 run in the final stanza to pull off the come-from-behind victory.
The Wildcats turned up their defensive intensity in the final quarter, forcing nine fourth quarter turnovers, and only 3-for-11 shooting.
Anfernee Ashley led the Pirates with 11 points and seven rebounds. Beau Barton netted nine points and Christian Oswalt, Shane Hill and Yuwsef Thorton all had eight.
Swansboro 8 20 12 6-46
Richlands 10 12 9 18-49
SWANSBORO (46) – Ashley 11, Barton 9, Hill 8, Oswalt 8, Thorton 8, Taylor 2.
RICHLANDS (49) – Best 30, Thompson 9, Norris 3, Thomas 3, Brown 2, Cottle 2.
After winning an overtime thriller in their tourney opener, the Pirates had little left for the powerful Northside Monarchs.
Northside, which went on to defeat Southwest 73-56 in Saturday’s tournament championship game, rolled past Swansboro 74-30.
The Pirates were able to contain the uptempo Monarchs early in the game, but midway through the opening quarter, the dam broke.
Northside led 24-4 at the end of the first period and never looked back.
Christian Oswalt led the Pirates with eight points and six rebounds.
Northside 24 10 23 17-74
Swansboro 4 5 15 6-30
NORTHSIDE (74) – Kr. Curry 12, Brown 11, Parker 10, Hilton 9, Ayabarreno 8, Cabrera 8, McCarthy 5, Washington 4, Curry 4.
SWANSBORO (30) – Oswalt 8, Ashley 7, Barton 5, Thorton 4, Foy 2, Hill 2,Taylor 2.
The Pirates had their most exciting game of the tourney in their opener against the Dixon Bulldogs.
Jared Morton’s layup at the buzzer sent the game into overtime, and from that point on Swansboro rolled to a 75-69 victory.
The contest was the third of the season between the two teams, with the Pirates prevailing in each.
“We knew this was going to be a tough game for us,” said Swansboro head coach Ed Walsh. “Dixon has gotten better each time we’ve played them and we feel very fortunate to come out of here tonight with a win. They stared three big guys and the match-up gave us fits all night.”
After leading through the first half, by as many as eight points, the Pirates found themselves playing catch-up through much of the second half.
Dixon was able to use its size to score inside, as well as some hot perimeter shooting to slowly pull away from the Pirates. The Bulldogs appeared to be in control with 59-52 lead and 4:20 left in the game.
But the Pirates were methodically able to chip away at the lead. Swansboro played with composure down the stretch, but just as critical was Dixon’s struggles from the free throw line.
The Pirates were forced to foul to put the Bulldogs on the free throw line and stop the clock.
And the strategy worked.
Dixon clanked shot after shot from the foul line. For the game, the Bulldogs were only 13 of 33 from the charity stripe, but in the final four minutes they connected on only 2 of 13 attempts.
With 33 seconds left to play, and after a pair of missed Pirate shots, a wild melee ensued beneath the basket, and Thornton managed to grab an offensive rebound and score a huge basket, which trimmed the Dixon advantage to 67-63 to keep his team’s hopes alive.
The Bulldogs proceeded to brick a pair of free throws, and Swansboro responded by pushing the ball quickly up the court and being rewarded by a 10-foot jumper from Morton.
Swansboro trailed only 67-65 with seconds left in regulation.
After another Pirate foul, the Bulldogs clanged two more free throws, which set up Morton’s heroics.
Ashley set up the hoop, driving to the basket and drawing three Bulldog defenders with time ticking away. Ashley pulled up to shoot, but instead made a bullet pass to Morton who was wide open beneath basket. The junior sharpshooter banked in his layup as the buzzer sounded.
Swansboro dominated the downtrodden Bulldogs in the four-minute overtime period. The Pirates were four of four from the foul line and hot-shooting Jake Barton took care of the rest.
Dixon had a pair of players foul out and never got their offense on track in the extra session.
Early in the game it didn’t appear as though the Pirates would need overtime to win the game.
Swansboro led 37-28 at the intermission, and looked to be on the verge of a blowout.
Barton, who finished the game with a team-high 23 points and connected on three three-point shots, was on fire in the second quarter with 12 points.
“We were shooting at a very high percentage in the first half, and I knew a lot of those shots would stop dropping in the second half,” said the coach. “I was pretty sure we couldn’t keep scoring at that pace. And even at that point Dixon was able to hang around. We knew once we settled down in the second half it was going to be a real close game.”
Walsh was pleased with his team’s performance, especially down the stretch.
“I was real proud of the way the kids maintained their focus. They did what we wanted down the stretch when we were behind. We forced a few turnovers and put Dixon on the line a couple of times, and fortunately for us they weren’t able to hit their foul shots. I was very pleased with the way the kids played with composure down the stretch.
“This was a big win for us, it’s the first time we’ve won our first round game in a couple of years. Now we get to play tomorrow in the night game, and we know we’re assured of a top four finish.”
Ashley finished the game with 18 points and Morton had 12. Barton led the team with 11 rebounds.
Dixon 17 11 23 16 2-69
Swansboro 18 19 11 19 8-75
DIXON (69) – Mitchell 28, Page 19, Marshburn 12, Sicknick 8, Elmore 2.
SWANSBORO (75) – Barton 23, Ashley 18, Morton 13, Thorton 13, Hill 3, Foy 2, Oswalt 2.