Cavaliers finish strong, improve to 12-1

Jan. 12—With eight minutes left to play in Southern Lee's conference showdown with Hoke Wednesday night, the Bucks had their eyes on another big win in Sanford, less than two weeks after rolling to the title in the Yellow Jacket Christmas Classic.

Didn't happen. As has been the case many times this winter, the Cavaliers finished strong and Hoke faltered in the fourth quarter, as Southern prevailed 61-53 and went to 12-1 on the season.

The home team outscored Hoke 18-10 in the fourth quarter of the contest and scored a second victory since the New Year over one of the Sandhills Athletic Conference's strong 4A teams. Southern won at Pinecrest last Friday night.

The Cavaliers both started and finished the game strong. Southern scored the game's first seven points and held the Bucks (9-6, 1-3 SAC) scoreless for the first four minutes of the first quarter. Even then, the home team stayed on the attack, increasing its lead to 12-4 on a driving and-one from Isaiah Upchurch and then a fastbreak layup from Nysheed Williams that made it 14-4 with 1:50 remaining in the period. The Bucks answered with a 7-0 run over the next minute of play, but Southern answered the bell. Upchurch sailed in to stickback a missed shot with 20 seconds left, and then Williams finished at the buzzer after a fastbreak triggered by a blocked shot at the other end. Southern led 18-11 after a quarter of play.

The Cavaliers pushed the lead back to eight when Williams sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key just 65 seconds into the second quarter, making it 21-13. However, the Bucks had the edge over the remainder of the first half and narrowed the gap to 31-28 by halftime.

The game seesawed in the third quarter and the teams went to the final eight minutes deadlocked at 43 before the Cavaliers took over again and pulled away.

The victory improved Southern's MaxPreps power rating to No. 7 in the 3A East, up one spot from the previous ratings.

Upchurch and Williams led the Cavalier attack, with 19 and 17 points, respectively. However, one strength of this Southern team has been its balance on offense. Two other players also hit double figures, with Cooper Harrington scoring 11 points and Tim Carnegie 10. Jaden Best and BJ Tate-Blanks each had two.

The Cavaliers will travel to Red Springs High School on Saturday for a 4 p.m. game as part of the MLK Classic hosted by the Red Devils. Southern's opponent in the men's half of the draw will be the ninth-ranked team in the 2A East, the Fairmont Golden Tornadoes (9-2).

Following the Classic, Southern's men will next play on Jan. 19 against Union Pines. The Lady Cavaliers will play again Wednesday at Western Harnett.

Hoke 62, Southern 22The women's game saw Hoke, which had been beaten by Lee and Richmond in its last two outings, win for only the third time this season. The Lady Cavaliers, who are still seeking their first victory of the campaign, had just six players available.

Southern fell behind early, but was competitive for most of the first half. The short bench caused the team to fade in the second half, and the Lady Cavaliers scored just six points after the break.

Makayla Hall scored all but two of the team's points, with Ja'Liyah Jones scoring the other two on a pair of free throws in the second quarter.