DOBSON — For much of the night, Surry Central’s game with South Stokes went exactly as the Golden Eagles would have wanted in order to pull out the victory.
Central managed to keep the game at a deliberate pace throughout, and under these circumstances, the impact of 6’5” big man Dante’ Hanner was maximized. The senior had 18 of his team’s 36 points through three quarters, and the Eagles rode his strong performance to a 25-20 halftime lead in a game that wasn’t decided until the last minute of the contest.
Unfortunately, the visiting Sauras clamped down defensively in the fourth quarter, as a collapsing 2-3 zone defense finally took Hanner out of the game and forced his teammates to carry the load. Surry Central managed just five points in the final period of what ended as a 46-40 Saura victory.
South Stokes (15-6, 5-2 Western Piedmont Athletic Conference) didn’t take the lead for good until Brady Dudley hit a 3-pointer near the baseline with 1:44 remaining, breaking a 40-all deadlock. In what was left of the time remaining, the Sauras kept Hanner for scoring, including one occasion where South Stokes’ Ben Bowen blocked a close-in shot. Central’s Austin Hazelwood also missed the front end of a one-and-one chance with 49 seconds left and his team still down just 43-40.
Finally, South’s Tre Scales sank one-of-two free throws with 19 seconds left to make it a two-possession game. Dudley finished the scoring with two more foul shots with three seconds remaining.
The contest featured five ties and six lead changes, but the early going was fitful, as Hanner scored the first two baskets of the game, only to see South Stokes shut his team out for more than six minutes and take an 8-4 lead. Brandon Norman finally broke the Central drought with 21 seconds left in the opening period, which ended with ended with the Sauras on top 8-6.
Hanner hit a three from the top of the key after more than a minute and a half of the second quarter to give Central the lead back, and the teams went back-and-forth for a short time before Mason Wood hit a pair of free throws to put the Eagles ahead for the rest of the first half. Threes from Ethan Danley and Norman staked the hosts to a 25-20 lead at intermission.
Dudley opened the second half with a three for the Sauras, and the battle was on. A second three from Dudley a minute later gave his team back the lead at 28-27, but then Hanner got the ball on the blocks and converted an old-school basket-and-foul three-point play. At the 4:48 mark, he sank two free throws and Central was up four, 32-28.
South’s Scales and P.J. Samuels took turns scoring as the Sauras outscored the Eagles 8-2 over the next three and a half minutes to lead by two, but Hanner’s putback with 22 seconds left in the period left the game tied at 36 with eight minutes to go.
The visitors scored the first four points of a fourth quarter that was fitful and marred by questionable officiating on both sides of the court. Central fought back with two free throws by Hazelwood at the 5:05 mark and a steal near midcourt by Chandler Johnson, who took it the other way for a basket and tied the game at 40 with 4:10 remaining. Hanner rejected a Saura shot that could have given them the lead shortly after, but neither he nor any other Eagle could find the bottom of the basket again.
Dudley led South Stokes with 17 points. Scales added 13 and Samuels eight. For Central, the second-leading scorer was Hazelwood with eight. Norman added five and Wood four.
The Eagles (8-11, 3-4 WPAC) will travel to Mount Airy for a non-conference tilt tonight.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.