Bartlett Yancey’s boy’s basketball team entered the Mid-State Conference tournament this past Tuesday needing to run the table to assure any games beyond this week.
After taking care of business in the opening round at home against the North Carolina School of Science and Math, BY traveled to Burlington Wednesday to take on regular season co-champion Cummings. Playing with passion and a sense of urgency, the Bucs stunned Cummings, who defeated them twice in the regular season, on their home court, defeating the Cavaliers, 75-68.
That victory set up a showdown Friday night with Carrboro for the Mid-State Conference title, again on the court at Cummings High.
Like Cummings, Carrboro had already beaten Bartlett Yancey twice during the regular season.
But this time around, things would be different.
Bartlett Yancey overcame a 19-point second quarter deficit with a spirited rally, and then overcame another deficit in overtime for a thrilling 79-77 triumph, earning the Bucs a place in the state playoffs for the first time in over a decade.
Carrboro broke out to an early 5-0 lead out of the tipoff before Christian Gwynn got the Buccaneers on the scoreboard with a pair of free throws just over a minute into the game. Gwynn then connected on a runner to pull BY within 5-4, but the Jaguars promptly went on an 11-2 run to take a 16-7 lead five minutes in. Then the Bucs fouled Carrboro’s Jared Porter when he attempted a 3-pointer. Porter made all three free throws, and the Jaguars led by 12, 19-7, with two minutes left in the opening period. BY went into the second quarter trailing, 25-11.
With the Bucs struggling to score, Carrboro’s lead got as high as 30-11 45 seconds into the second quarter before BY began to chip away. Malachi Gwynn, who scored just two points in the opening quarter, connected on back-to-back 3-pointers, which brought the Bucs within 30-17 and forced a Carrboro timeout. Gwynn went on to score 13 points in the second quarter as Bartlett Yancey made a charge.
Hughes began to rotate his lineups aggressively, bringing in defensive specialists Jacob Scales and Demontez Branch on defensive possessions, and Cameron Holman, Malik Short, and others in on offense. Scales picked up the first of several key steals and was fouled, but BY went into a stretch where they missed five consecutive free throws.
Despite the missed free throws, however, BY’s defense keyed a remarkable second quarter comeback. After Malik Short converted a layup to pull the Bucs within 34-21 at the 3:30 mark, the Bucs got another steal, and Short passed ahead to Holman for another layup to make it 34-23 and force another Jaguars timeout.
With the Bartlett Yancey fans starting to get into the game with audible cheering throughout the arena, Scales grabbed another Bucs steal and was fouled again driving to the rim. This time he made both shots, and suddenly BY was within single digits at 34-25. The Bucs’ 6-0 run was briefly halted by a Carrboro free throw, but Short and Malachi Gwynn nailed 3-pointers on two subsequent possessions, making the count 35-31 with just under two minutes left before halftime. By that point, Bartlett Yancey was on a 12-1 run.
Carrboro finally converted a field goal to snap BY’s streak, and got back ahead 40-33 with 57 seconds left in the quarter. But Short converted a 3-point play on the other end, and Malachi Gwynn made two free throws. A third steal by Scales led to another free throw, and Bartlett Yancey had remarkably rallied from a 30-11 deficit to a 40-39 halftime score.
The Buccaneers made their way into the lead following a critical play midway through the third quarter. Carrboro standout DeAndre Burnette, along with fellow Jaguars backcourt mate Shamael Partridge, hurt BY’s defense early on with dribble penetration as they built their early edge. But Burnett was called for a crucial third foul at the 4:47 mark of the third quarter, with Carrboro leading, 50-47.
Malachi Gwynn, on his way to a game-high 29 points for the victorious Buccaneers, scored while getting fouled, and his free throw with 4:37 left in the third quarter tied the game, 50-50. Then Gwynn nailed a jumper approximately a minute later to give Bartlett Yancey its first lead of the evening, 52-50.
The Bucs would stretch their lead out to 57-50 - a 46-20 run for Bartlett Yancey over a quarter and a half of play - before Carrboro reeled off seven straight points to tie the game 57-57 going into the fourth quarter, setting up a frantic and intense finish.
Carrboro briefly retook the lead, 58-57, but Short, who scored nine of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, connected on a 3-pointer for a 60-58 Bucs lead with seven minutes to play in regulation. Short then made a bank shot driving the lane for a 62-60 BY lead 40 seconds later.
Carrboro reclaimed the lead on a 3-point play following a questionable traveling no call, but Miles Jefferson grabbed an offensive rebound and dropped it in as the teams traded the lead back and forth.
Holman made a free throw for a 65-63 Bucs advantage, but Carrboro went ahead, 66-65, only for Short to catch a solid pass from Malachi Gwynn to give BY the lead again, 67-66, midway through the final period.
With 3:53 to go, Carrboro’s Burnette drove the lane and this time Bartlett Yancey did get the call, as Burnette was called for traveling. Burnette injured his leg on the play, though he would return later. Along with Burnette’s brief absence, the Jaguars also didn’t have the services of junior big man T.K. Paisant in the second half, who injured his right ankle and spent the final minutes with ice on his foot along the Carrboro bench.
Carrboro gained possession with a chance to take the lead as the clock wound down to the 3-minute mark, and Chris Thompson made two free throws for a 68-67 Jaguars lead. At the 2:40 mark Thompson was fouled again and he made two more free throws, giving Carrboro a 70-67 advantage.
Hughes called a timeout, settling his team down for the final stretch. Malachi Gwynn was fouled on a drive coming out of the timeout, and he made one free throw. Following a defensive stop, Short drove the lane and dropped in a bank shot, once again tying the score at 70-70 at the 1:54 mark.
Carrboro got a pair of free throws for a 72-70 lead, but Christian Gwynn converted another drive to the basket, tying the count at 72-72. After calling a timeout, the Jaguars held the ball the final 50 seconds for the last shot. They called another timeout with 8.1 seconds to go in regulation, but couldn’t get off a clean shot. Bartlett Yancey got a chance for a halfcourt prayer at the buzzer, but Short’s desperation attempt bounded off the backboard.
In the four-minute overtime period, Lipscomb got the Buccaneers going with an offensive rebound and putback - his first field goal of the second half - to give Bartlett Yancey a brief 74-72 lead. Carrboro then got a 3-pointer to regain the lead, and minutes later took a 77-75 lead with 1:05 to play in the extra session.
Bartlett Yancey called timeout with 59 seconds left in overtime, examining the situation and setting up a play.
It was the right call, as Malachi Gwynn drove and dropped in a layup with 50 seconds to go, pulling the Bucs within a single point, 77-76. The Jaguars then threw a high errant pass out of bounds, giving Bartlett Yancey a chance to take the lead.
Take the lead the Bucs did, as Malachi Gwynn, playing the game of his career, once again blew past his Carrboro defender and scored on bank shot in the lane, giving Bartlett Yancey the lead, 78-77, right at the 30-second mark. On the other end, Carrboro missed multiple shots and Christian Gwynn grabbed a key defensive board for the Bucs.
With the Bartlett Yancey fans working themselves into a frenzy, Gwynn stepped to the line and made his first attempt, but missed the second. Carrboro raced down and tried to get a shot, but Burnette’s last-ditch drive bounced off the front bottom of the rim just before time expired. It was over, and the Bucs had a 79-77 victory, and the school’s first NCHSAA playoff appearance in 12 years was secured.
The final horn set off a wild scene on the court, as friends and family members joined the BY players in an extended celebration. Hughes received hugs and handshakes from numerous supporters, including Bartlett Yancey legend Lindsay Page, while the Buccaneer players hollered, hugged each other, flexed their muscles, and posed for photographs. It was a memorable, historic night for the Bartlett Yancey boy’s basketball program.