Cathedral hangs on, advances to South State

Published 12:46 am Wednesday, February 20, 2008

NATCHEZ — Cathedral’s dream season almost came to a nightmare conclusion Tuesday night.

Up 21 points with under six minutes to play, the Green Wave had to hold off a furious Sebastopol comeback before hanging on to win 67-63 and advance to the South State Tournament.

“We went from playing to win to trying to protect the lead,” Cathedral coach Peter Arnold said. “Sebastopol played really well and we made a lot of mistakes we don’t normally make.”

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Cathedral (26-5) looked like they were rolling toward an easy victory when they took a 57-38 lead with just under six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

However, the Bobcats turned up the defensive pressure and forced the Wave into numerous turnovers which they took advantage of to quickly climb back into the game.

Compounding the problem was an injury to point guard Juan Gray with 2:38 remaining and the Green Wave up 61-53.

Gray took an accidental elbow to the throat and was down on the court for over five minutes before being helped to the bench with an ice pack over his throat.

“We rely on him to handle the ball so much,” Arnold said. “Without him in the game, it got pretty scary.”

Without Gray, Cathedral’s primary ball handler, in the game, the Wave struggled against the aggressive press of the Bobcats.

A three-pointer by Sebastopol’s Justin Spivey cut the lead to 63-59 with 49 seconds remaining.

Gray recovered and re-entered the game with 32 seconds remaining, but missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw situation with 30 seconds left.

Sebastopol cut the lead to two points on a basket by Lavell Brown with 17 seconds left.

However, a technical foul was called on the Bobcats when a player reached over the end line to try and steal the inbounds pass.

Gray knocked down one of two technical free throws and made both free throws after he was fouled on Cathedral’s inbounds pass with 11 seconds left.

However, that still didn’t seal the victory. Spivey was fouled with 9 seconds left and knocked down both free throws.

The Bobcats almost stole the inbounds pass, but Cathedral’s Charles Lee saved the game by ripping the ball away from a Bobcat player.

He was fouled with 5 seconds left and made one free throw to seal the victory.

Lee’s play was symbolic of the entire game, as the whole team contributed on the offensive end, especially Andy Lucas, who scored 19 points in addition to Gray’s 20. Lee also scored in double figures, with 10 points.

“They played a 3-2 zone trapping high,” Arnold said. “We knew we could get the ball to the middle. Andy did a great job of finishing. He played great tonight.”

With the win, the Green Wave advance to the South State Tournament for the first time in recent memory. Their 26 wins is also a school record.

Cathedral will play Durant on Thursday night at 8:30 in the first round of the South State Tournament at East Webster High School in Maben.

“This is a dream season and none of us want to wake up,” Arnold said. “None of us want this season to end.