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Heading into Tuesday's Conference 18 semifinal matchup against Heritage, Grafton Coach Tommy Bayse said the Clippers would have to play a clean game if they wanted to advance in the playoffs.
Instead of taking care of the ball and advancing to the semifinal round, Grafton committed 26 turnovers during a season-ending 37-33 loss to the Hurricanes at home.
The loss also marks the first time Grafton has not made the regional tournament under Bayse, who is in his seventh year coaching the Clippers.
"We've been in the conference or Bay Rivers District championship every year I've been here. To lose in the first round of the conference tournament, it hurts a little bit," Bayse said.
On a night in which both Heritage and Grafton struggled on offense, the Clippers got into their groove too late to eke out the victory against the Hurricanes.
The only consistent offense in the first half for either team was from Heritage's Special Bridges, who scored eight of her team-high 10 points in the first half.
Makayla Jones scored all six of her points in the first half for the Clippers, while Grafton's leading scorer Haley Cunningham labored to find points in through the first three quarters. Cunningham logged five first-half points before being held scoreless in the third quarter.
Heritage held a slight 17-13 halftime advantage that felt larger than it actually was given the offensive woes for both sides.
Grafton saw its deficit grow in the third quarter as Heritage extended its lead by three points. Turnovers proved the bane of Grafton's game plan in the third quarter as the Clippers turned the ball over on five out of six straight possessions toward the end of the quarter.
After a slow first three quarters, Cunningham gave a last-ditch effort to keep Grafton in the game down the stretch. Cunningham helped spur a 7-0 Grafton run that cut Heritage's lead to three points with 2:16 left.
The Clippers were forced with time running out in the game because of missed shots. With Heritage leading by six points, Cunningham splashed a 3-pointer with 4.4 seconds left to bring Grafton within three points.
A Heritage free throw coming off the ensuing inbound play put the Hurricanes ahead by two possessions and essentially ended the game, as well as Grafton's (8-12) season.
With just two seniors on the roster, as well as losing sophomore point guard Kierson Tavares with a torn ACL during the season, Bayse said this season played out about how he expected.
"We got in a groove the middle of the season, but we lost Tavares and that really hurt us," he said. "I was hoping to finish .500, but we finished four games under, so I guess it was about what I expected. I was hoping to do a little better."
Heritage: 5 12 8 12 — 37
Grafton: 5 8 5 15 — 33
Heritage: Grant 8, Weeks 5, Newell 9, Bridges 10, Webb 5
Grafton: Cunningham 14, Franklin 8, Hare 2, Jones 6, Swann 3
3-point goals: Grafton 2 (Cunningham 2)
Bruton Cruises Past Nandua in Conference Semis
Bruton had little trouble taking down Nandua by a final score of 54-38 at home Tuesday during the semifinal round of the Conference 33 tournament.
The game was lopsided from the get-go as Bruton proved too much for Nandua to handle on offense and defense.
The Panthers outpaced Nandua 16-4 in the first quarter before extending their lead to 30-9 by halftime.
Despite Nandua cutting Bruton's lead by one point in the third quarter, the Panthers led by a large enough margin to let reserve players close the game out during the fourth quarter.
Bruton (15-5) faces a quick turnaround as the Panthers will host Maggie Walker on Wednesday for the Conference 33 championship game.
Nandua: 4 5 13 16 — 38
Bruton: 16 14 12 12 — 54
Nandua: Taylor 8, Stevens 4, Toppin 3, Robinson 1, Nack 16, Locklear 6
Bruton: Samuel 7, My. Johnson 13, Dorsey 2, Calloway 6, Ferguson 8, Sluss 7, Matthews 2, Ma. Johnson 7, Robinson 2
3-point goals: Nandua 8 (Taylor 2, Nack 4, Locklear 2), Bruton 2 (My. Johnson, Sluss)
Denbigh Stuns Lafayette to End Rams' Season
Lafayette's season came to an earlier-than-expected end Tuesday evening when the Rams were defeated 57-51 by Denbigh in the first round of the Conference 18 tournament at home.
The Rams entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed, while Denbigh was the lowest seed in the tournament.
Despite being the lower seed, Denbigh jumped on Lafayette early to take a lead the Patriots did not relinquish for the rest of the game.
The Rams cut into Denbigh's lead in the second half behind full court pressure and trapping, but the aggressive defense landed the Rams in foul trouble.
With Denbigh playing nearly the entire fourth quarter in the double bonus, the Patriots sank 18 fourth-quarter free throws compared to none from Lafayette.
The free throws allowed Denbigh to keep Lafayette (11-9) at bay and secure the upset victory that ends Lafayette's season.
While disappointed in the loss, Lafayette Coach Dan Downs praised his seniors for their leadership throughout the season and said he was optimistic about next season with the team's returning talent.
Individual statistics were not reported for this game.
Denbigh 57, Lafayette 51
I.C. Norcom Rolls Past York
York suffered a season-ending 69-23 defeat on the road against I.C. Norcom on Tuesday in the quarterfinal round of the Conference 27 tournament.
York's offense struggled to find its rhythm against a physically-imposing defense like I.C. Norcom.
The only York player to score in double figures was Madison Van Dyke, who tied for a game-high 13 points.
York trailed 16-5 after the first quarter and was down 32-14 by halftime.
I.C. Norcom continued piling on the points in the second half, outscoring the Falcons 37-9 over the final two quarters of play to put an end to York's season.
York (2-17) concludes what was a rough season highlighted by general inexperience and youth throughout the roster.
"The girls progressed from day one to the last game, played hard and never gave up even with the score being what it was," York Coach Michelle Wintermantel said about the Falcons. "Hopefully next year they'll keep on progressing."
York: 5 9 2 7 — 23
I.C. Norcom: 16 16 21 16 — 69
York: Isaksen 2, Van Dyke 13, McKoy-Olivis 2, Horner 4, Winfree 2
I.C. Norcom: Savage 4, Knox 13, Everett 4, Hardy 5, T. Chambers 8, Brisco 1, Robinson 1, K. Chambers 6, I. Jones 2, Ryland 4, D. Jones 21
3-point goals: York 1 (Horner), I.C. Norcom 4 (Hardy, Knox, Jones 2)
Nansemond-Suffolk Downs Walsingham Academy
Walsingham Academy suffered a 54-24 road loss against Nansemond-Suffolk Academy on Tuesday.
The Trojans struggled to contain NSA's Harper Birdsong, who posted a game-high 24 points in the blowout victory.
While the Trojan defense struggled, the offense fared just as poorly as Walsingham Academy had difficulty finding points throughout the night.
NSA held a two-point lead after the first quarter but blew the game open in the second quarter by outscoring Walsingham 20-4. At halftime, NSA led Walsingham 30-12.
The second half was more of the same as NSA doubled up Walsingham 24-12 over the final two quarters.
Walsingham (6-13) will try to rebound Thursday on the road against Bishop Sullivan.
Walsingham: 8 4 5 7 — 24
NSA: 10 20 12 12 — 54
Walsingham: McBeath 7, Mauk 6, Williams 5, Marcombe 4, Mann 2
NSA: Goldberg 2, Harrell 6, Vastardis 2, Birdsong 24, Aston 2, Hogan 3, Herrod 4, Krierbein 4, Hogg 6
3-point goals: Walsingham 2 (Mauk 2), NSA 1 (Birdsong)