Tuesday's opening round of the NCHSAA basketball playoffs saw Overhills locked into a back-and-forth road matchup.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated with a full game recap and comments from coaches and players.
LUMBERTON — Overhills' early lead wasn't enough to fend off Lumberton on the road Tuesday during a 64-57 first-round loss, as part of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) boys basketball playoffs.
No. 9 seed Lumberton (21-6) moves on to face eighth-seeded Pine Forest on the road Thursday.
In his final prep game, Overhills senior Damien Robinson scored all of his team-leading 15 points in the first half, 11 coming in the second quarter alone.
"Before the game, I prepared myself really well. I was really locked in because I felt like we could get the (win) on the road," Robinson said.
The 6-foot-6 big helped reverse a two-point first-quarter deficit and converted a short bucket, plus the foul, that gave the Jags a 20-19 with 6:49 left until halftime. Robinson's mid-range jumpers, put-back attempts, and rebounding allowed his squad to take a slight 35-34 advantage after two quarters.
Out the break, Jags supporting cast members helped expand the lead.
Jay Byron, who matched Robinson's 15 points, slipped in a creative layup with just over three minutes left in the third that punctuated an 11-4 run and put the group up 45-38.
That was the Jags' largest lead, however, as a late Pirates run saw the margin slip to just one point, 50-49, on a J.B. Brockington and-1 with just 35 seconds left in the period. Kevin Lalin answered with a tough layup that gave Overhills a 52-49 advantage heading into the final frame.
"We've probably played the best three quarters of basketball that we've played all year," said first-year Jags coach Michael Stephens, who saw his group finish the year 5-7 after jumping out to an 11-1 start.
"It's been a tough second half of the year, lots of games and not a lot of practices. ... We owned that team for three quarters and it the fourth quarter ... we missed a couple of shots early on and then it just kind of a trickle effect for us.
Brockington, who had 18 points, and Cobe Oxendine (game-high 19) stage Lumberton's closing efforts, while holding Overhills to just five fourth-quarter points.
Midway through the final period, Brockington converted another and-1, this time cutting the Jags' lead to 55-53. An Oxendine floater at the 3:21 mark gave the Pirates their first lead, 58-57, since the opening half and set off a wave of deafening cheers inside the packed gym.
"After the home crowd gets into it, that vibe it just brings to the home team just kills the energy for the away (team)," Robinson said. "I just feel like our energy kind of shifted down just a little bit."'
The Jags went scoreless down the stretch and watched the Pirates net the contests' final six points.
Ayden Gittens added 12 points and Kevin Lalin chipped in with seven of his nine points in the second half for Overhills, who finished 16-8 overall and fifth in the All American Conference with a 9-5 league record.
Donnell Coley can be reached at email@example.com