Kinston advances to ECI championship, falls to South Central
Kinston’s Dontrez Styles drives to the lane with South Central’s Day’ron Sharpe in pursuit during Sunday’s East Coast Invitational championship game. Photo by William ‘Bud’ Hardy / Neuse News
JACKSONVILLE — Kinston hung with a state powerhouse for three quarters Sunday, but was ultimately done in by the perfect quarter.
The South Central Falcons defeated the Vikings 74-63 in the East Coast Invitational championship game, finishing the four-day tournament 11-0. The Falcons hit their first 10 shots in the fourth quarter to get the necessary separation from Kinston as the defending NCHSAA 4A state champions proved there’s still immense talent on the roster, even after replacing four starters due to graduation from last year’s team.
“This showed what kind of program we are, and we were able to pick up victories against quality opponents,” Falcons coach Chris Cherry said. “We have a great developmental system and the guys have continued to work hard each day.”
South Central and UNC commit Day’ron Sharpe is the Falcons’ lone returner in the starting lineup and he made his presence felt with 36 points and 14 rebounds. Still, Kinston started off on a 7-0 run, punctuated with an alley-oop from Isaac Parson to Dontrez Styles. South Central would respond with a 10-2 spurt to retake the lead and the teams would switch it five more times in the half with three ties. Cardiaa Koonce’s 3-pointer to start the second put Kinston ahead 22-18, but South Central — who shot 62 percent in the second — would stretch the advantage to 37-29 after an Isiah Mills perimeter basket. Parson and Styles scored to close out the quarter and cut the South Central lead to four going into halftime.
Kinston wouldn’t let South Central get separation in the third, narrowing the gap to two on several occasions, the latest on a Styles 3-pointer with 1:05 remaining. On the other end, Joseph Thompson closed the frame with a basket and Sharpe scored to start the fourth before Parson’s 3-pointer brought Kinston within 50-47.
South Central put the game away with an 11-0 run and Kinston never got within single digits from there, as the Falcons shot 83 percent from the field in the fourth and hit all four of their free throw attempts.
Despite the loss, Kinston coach Perry Tyndall said there were plenty of positives to take from the tournament. Kinston defeated Richmond Senior 49-47 in the ECI semifinals and finished the camp 9-2 overall.
“This camp challenges you on so many different levels,” Tyndall said. “Of course, it’s not the outcome we wanted but I’m proud of the way my guys battled all camp. The biggest takeaway is how hard we competed — you can do a whole lot with kids who play hard and play the right way.”
Styles scored 27 points and Parson added 17 in the game against South Central. Parson said the final result stung, but said the camp was a great experience overall.
“It was tough because we wanted to win the whole thing, but we played well for most of the camp,” Parson said. “Hopefully, the guys can come back here next year and win it all.”