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The first time the Person High School boys’ basketball team faced Western Alamance, the game was practically over before it started.
The Rockets’ all-out buzzsaw of a defense overwhelmed the Warriors to a 30-point halftime lead and comfortable victory.
Such was not the case in the rematch.
Western Alamance stayed close throughout and shot its way in the fourth quarter to a 65-62 victory on Senior Night at Person.
“We kept telling the guys that they were coming in here ready to play, just like we were when we played Morehead after they came into our place and beat us,” Person coach Charles Dacus said. “We went back and returned the favor and that’s what they had on their minds. They were ready to play. We did some good things at times, but we just didn’t play smart enough down the stretch to seal the deal.”
The loss complicated the Rockets’ path to an automatic berth to the 3A state playoffs.
Person has dropped two in a row and sits at 11-9 overall and 6-4 in the Mid-State Conference, a game behind McMichael and Western Alamance for second place heading into Tuesday’s critical game at Northern Guilford. Results from the Person-Northern Guilford game are unavailable at press time. The Nighthawks are just a game behind Person for fourth in the conference.
The Rockets travel to McMichael Friday before ending the season at the conference’s bottom two teams — Rockingham County and Northeast Guilford.
“We need to be focused,” Dacus said Friday. “We’re in the second place hunt and there’s four more ballgames for both teams. Whoever wants it is going to have to dig down. The good thing is that we get to keep playing. The season’s not over. We get to keep playing. I told them that we can play five more games or seven-plus. It’s up to them. We just have to regroup and get back in to playing good basketball.”
The Warriors withstood Person’s defense much better this time around and stayed within shouting distance only trailing 44-42 heading into the fourth.
Make that shooting distance.
Western Alamance guard Shane Peterson buried three fourth-quarter 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 25 points to lead the Warriors late surge. Peterson hit five threes as part of his 20 point second half.
Person sophomore guard Tae Bailey nearly matched Peterson from deep.
Bailey finished with 14 points and did his part to keep Person in the game late. With a little more than a minute to play, Bailey had a clean look at a 3-pointer in transition, but was fouled on the arm going up for the shot. He calmly stepped to the line and hit all three free throws and hit drained a contested 3-pointer that slice the Warriors’ lead to 64-62 with five seconds remaining.
“(Bailey’s) playing with a lot of confidence,” Dacus said. “That’s what confidence does, it allows you to excel in situations like that. He’s been progressing all year. His confidence level is really high right now.”
That last three set up a wild sequence to end the game.
After a timeout, the Rockets quickly fouled Jordyn Neal, forcing him to the line. Neal missed the first free throw, but hit the second to push the lead to three.
Malik Williams, a quarterback on the Person football team, completed a length-of-the-floor pass to Cam Brown in the far corner of the court. Brown quickly shot the ball while being forced out of bounds by a Western Alamance defender.
The official called Brown for stepping out of bounds, giving the ball back to Western Alamance with less than a second to play.
Time expired on the inbounds.
Brown finished a team-high 15 points in his final regular season home game. Devaun Nelson poured in 12 points, while Dre Newman added 11. Williams chipped in six and Jaylen Black came off the bench and added four.
Person is 46th in the latest MaxPreps Adjusted Rankings, published weekly by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. The rankings are used by the NCHSAA as a component for playoff seeding.