CALYPSO – Starr Jaco toed the free-throw line and watched the first of a two-shot technical foul bounce off the iron.
“I was like, ‘Oh Lord, here we go,’” she said. “I’m going to miss the second one. I’m not good at shooting free throws, but I had faith in myself.”
Jaco took a deep breath.
She set her feet, fired again and the second free throw dropped into the net.
That embarrassing road loss to Rosewood less than three weeks ago quickly faded into the distance.
North Duplin emerged victorious 41-40 and claimed its first win over the Eagles since Jan. 20, 2012. The stirring comeback snapped a 17-game streak in the series which began in the early 1970s.
It was also senior night for Jamilyn Wallace and Jackie Funez.
“We were all happy, all excited... jumping up and down,” Jaco said of the post-game locker room celebration.
“We came into the gym ready to play, wanted to beat them for our senior night. We beat Hobbton and they lost to Hobbton, so we were like ‘we’ve got this.’ It was a good game.”
A nail-biter, for sure.
Funez’s offensive putback off of a missed free throw gave the Rebels a 36-34 lead and set the stage for a wild, tantalizing final two minutes.
Rosewood knotted the score at 36-36 before Jaco drove into the paint and drew a two-shot foul. The sophomore hit nothing but net on both tries, which put North Duplin back in front 38-36.
“I usually don’t have much faith in myself when I’m shooting free throws,” Jaco said.
After each team misfired on their next few possessions, the Eagles forced a turnover and scored underneath for the 38-38 tie.
Jaco answered with two more free throws to make it 40-38.
The Eagles committed a turnover with 22 seconds to go, but coerced the Rebels into a ball-handling mistake. Rosewood kissed a layup off of the glass for a 40-40 deadlock with 8.6 seconds left in regulation.
First-year Eagles head coach Julian Whitney received a technical foul after the play for an undisclosed reason. Jaco hit the second of the two charity shots to make it 41-40. She ended the night with 9 points.
Rosewood’s Arzhane Dozier forced a jump ball against Jaco, which gave possession to the Eagles. Teammate Skyler Lassiter missed from the right corner and the Rebels’ Morgan McCoy corralled the rebound as time expired.
North Duplin (4-14 overall, 2-8 Carolina) finished the contest with five players.
Hannah Martin, who led all scorers with 14 points, fouled out. Wallace and Ivey Cashwell did not play due to knee injuries. Cashwell expected to play Friday at league-leading Princeton. Wallace hopes to return by the conference tournament.
Adaisha Bernal contributed 10 points for the Rebels.