SEIZE THE MOMENT: Red Devils face old foe in East finals

First Posted: 3/4/2011

FAYETTEVILLE — “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”
While the origin of that phrase is disputed, there is one thing that is for certain, the Red Springs boys basketball team is ready to don an apron and prepare the meal for Pender.
Last season in the 1A sectional final, the Patriots and the Red Devils battled to the final minute. With 40 seconds remaining in the game and trailing by two, Red Springs attempted a go-ahead 3-pointer.
The shot bounced off the rim and the ball ended up in the hands of a Pender player. The Patriots hit four free throws to seal the 62-56 win.
Fast forward a year and the two teams meet again on the hardwood, today at 2 p.m. at the Crown Arena. This time for a chance for the 1A East Region crown and a spot in next week’s state championship.
“This is more than a game, we want revenge,” Glenn Patterson Jr. said. “This year is our year to beat them. Everybody thought our year was last year. The matchup was meant to be, we want to get revenge and get a state title.”
While the names on the front of the uniforms are the same, the ones on the back have changed. Red Springs and Pender return a handful of starters from last year’s clash, but each return its leading scorer from the game.
Patterson Jr. scored a game-high 25 points for the Red Devils, while 6-foot-10 center Kenyan Pittman netted 19 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked six shots in the win for the Patriots.
“We have more depth this year and speed,” Pender coach Gary Battle said. “We have more seniors this year. We are much bigger than last year and quicker this year.”
Even though Pittman is seven inches taller than the biggest Red Devil, Red Springs coach Glenn Patterson Sr. is more concerned about another Pender player — Addison Spruill. Spruill showed off his ability to drive the lane in the Patriots’ semifinal contest with Riverside. The 6-foot-4 wing player scored 21 of his game-high 27 points in the first half, including a tomahawk dunk off a coast-to-coast drive.
“He’s their leading scorer, he’s a strong kid,” Patterson Sr. said. “We know if we want to win we have to stop Spruill. He’s the key. We have to stop him, he can’t score.”
Battle admits he doesn’t spend much timing scouting the opposition but makes in-game adjustments. He’s hoping his team is ready for the quick turnaround.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Battle said. “I hope the kids show up to play. We want to come out and establish the tempo. You never know.”
Patterson Sr. hasn’t formulated his strategy to contain Spruill, but he didn’t finalize his scheme to stymie Camden’s leading scorer Shawn Hammonds until the bus ride to the game Thursday night. He decided to use a box-and-1 against Hammonds and have JuJu Brown chase him around the court. The plan worked as Brown limited Hammonds to five points.
“We had a battle with the coaches on what to do,” Patterson Sr. said. “Some were for having JuJu guard him and some were against him. I made the decision to put JuJu on him. He won’t take a shot unless he’s open. He didn’t want to take energy away from Jeremy (McDowell) and Glenn. My assistants put together a great scouting report on Pender.”
One of Brown’s teammates said while Red Springs was watching Pender cruise past Riverside, Brown let everyone know he’s again ready to take on the role of defensive stopper against Spruill.
“JuJu said I want him,” Patterson Jr. said. “We have a great game plan. JuJu’s quick and he’s going to get after him.”
As Patterson Sr. hopes he is drawing up another winning strategy to inch Red Springs closer to its first state championship since snagging the 1A title in 1969, he reflects on some words of advice given to him by former Red Devils girls coach Eva Patterson-Heath.
“She told me, ‘It’s the team you least expect to get you there, that get’s you there,’” Patterson Sr. said. “This is probably one of my least talented teams I have had here, but they are doing what they need to do to win. The kids know their roles and know not to try to do too much. They are playing together and peaking at the right time. I’m just enjoying the ride.”
Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at (910) 272-6111 or at [email protected]

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