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2019 SPENCER CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES GO DOWN TO THE WIRE

By Rich Habegger, 12/31/19, 10:45AM EST

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Fans attending the two championship games of the Frank Spencer Tournament were treated to two thrilling contests.  In the finals of the Wake Forest Baptist Health Sports Medicine Bracket, the Vikings of North Forsyth overcame a 12-point fourth quarter deficit to claim a nail-biting 51-50 victory over the Glenn Bobcats.  In the championship matchup of the Pepsi Bracket, the Mt. Tabor Spartans survived a furious fourth-quarter rally from Winston-Salem Prep to capture an exciting 54-48 win.

The North Forsyth-Glenn game was a matchup of the top-seeded teams in the Wake Forest Health Bracket with Glenn seeded as the top team and the Vikings #2.  In an earlier game this month, Glenn handily defeated North Forsyth 63-45.  The Vikings were looking for redemption, but for the majority of the game, it appeared as if this game would have a similar outcome to the earlier one.

The first eight minutes were low scoring, as both teams seemed to have trouble adjusting to the large Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.  A key 3-pointer at the buzzer by Dedrick Hickman gave North Forsyth a narrow 10-8 lead heading into period two.  Glenn’s offensive execution was much better in the second quarter, and it quickly went on a 12-0 run to grab 20-10 advantage before North could score again.  Sterling Vaughn’s 7 points in the stanza helped Glenn take a 26-17 lead into the halftime break.

The Bobcats added to their cushion in the third quarter outscoring the Vikings 16-11 as North Forsyth continued to struggle finding offensive consistency.  However, that was about to change as the fourth quarter began with Glenn holding a 14-point lead, 42-28.

The teams battled evenly for a couple of minutes with the Bobcats still leading 46-34 midway through the period, but then the Vikings caught fire.  Led by Dedrick Hickman, the Vikings went on an 11-0 run to cut the deficit to 46-45.  Hickman scored six points in the run, and North’s full court zone trap caused Glenn to rush its shots or turn the ball over.  Yorel Harris finally scored a bucket for the Bobcats to stop the run, but the North Forsyth scored the next six points to claim a 51-48 lead as the clock neared zero.  Hickman scored the first four points of the run, and Marquez Hurst added the final two points that provided the winning margin when Julius Reese Jr. scored a last bucket for the Glenn. 

When asked about his stellar fourth quarter performance, Hickman replied, “My team, they needed me.  I needed to fight for them so I came and got buckets.”  Hickman continued that this tournament was the last for the Viking seniors so they had to come out and fight. 

Viking Head Coach James Wilhelmi revealed the successful strategy that he gave his team when faced with the large deficit.  “We told them to stay the course.  It’s a process and we got to walk people down.  Our time will come.”  He further explained what happened to his team in the final period.  “The energy level (of his team) picked up.  We sat Marquez Hurst for a little bit and when he came back in the game, it was magical.  Hickman made huge buckets and our seniors all contributed.”  Coach Wilhelmi said nearly all of his team’s games have been nail-biters, and now “they are starting to believe that anything’s possible.  I’m just proud of these guys.”

North Forsyth freshman Lewis Walker was chosen as the MVP of the Wake Forest Baptist Health Sports Medicine Bracket.

The second championship game pitted the Mt. Tabor Spartans against the Phoenix of Winston-Salem Prep for the third time this season.  The Spartans won both earlier games by identical 15-point margins, but Prep was eager to challenge Mt. Tabor a third time.

It was an emotional, highly charged game from the opening tap and both teams had trouble scoring against the tough defense played by their opponent.  The Spartans jumped out to a 9-2 lead early before the Phoenix cut the deficit to 11-7 heading into the second stanza.  The second period mirrored the first in that defense ruled the game, and at halftime, Mt. Tabor held a 24-16 advantage.  Jakob Moore, who was selected as the MVP of the Pepsi Bracket, scored 8 of the Spartans’ 13 points in the quarter.

The offenses of both teams improved after halftime, and the teams enjoyed contributions from numerous players in the third period.  However, the Phoenix were outscored again by a 17-15 margin and entered the final eight minutes down 41-31.

Coach Andre Gould lit a fire under his team at the close of the third quarter as Prep went on an 8-0 run in the early minutes of the fourth quarter to shave the deficit to 41-39.  From this point to the final buzzer, the fans were on their feet as the players gave it their all.  The teams battled back and forth, and when Prep’s Stephen Minor drilled a 3-pointer with 2:05 showing on the clock, the Spartan lead was again a mere two points, 47-45.  Showing its poise, Mt. Tabor then went on a crucial 6-0 run--2 points coming on Jakob Moore’s dunk and 4 on free throws, two each from Gunner Walters and Shaylen Woodbury--to crush the Phoenix chance for victory.

For Coach Andy Muse of Mt. Tabor, the championship marks his 6th Frank Spencer title, which is the most by any coach in the history of the tournament.

Moore paced Mt. Tabor with 17 points and Prep had no answer to his power inside.  Seniors Shaylen Woodbury (11 points) and Jordan Hunter (10 points) made valuable contributions to the victory.  Woodberry hit a couple of clutch baskets and converted 3 of 4 from the line in the closing minutes.  Hunter played outstanding defense and led the Tabor effort in the third quarter with six points.  Minor led the Phoenix with 22 points, 11 coming in the fourth period.

Following the game, Coach Muse was very complimentary of his team saying, “What a great group of kids we have.”  He called Moore the best player in the tournament, recognized Finley Simmons for his outstanding defense, and said that seniors Woodberry and Hunter really stepped up during the tournament.

Pepsi Bracket All-Tournament Team:

Camian Shell-Parkland

Isaac Spainhour-West Stokes

T. J. Mills-Winston-Salem Prep

Stephen Minor-Winston-Salem Prep

Finley Simmons-Mt. Tabor

Jakob Moore (MVP)-Mt. Tabor