Second-ranked Archbishop Spalding (10-2) lost a 64-61 heartbreaker to USA Today's No. 13 team, White County High (12-1) of Sparta, Tenn., in the final of the prestigious King Cotton Classic in Pine Bluff, Ark., late Wednesday night.
Going for their third straight win in the 12-team tournament that boasted three teams ranked in Street & Smith's preseason Top 20, the Cavaliers had a potential game-tying, three-point attempt hit the rim at the buzzer.
"It was a winnable game, but we missed a couple free throws late in the game and then had the last shot hit the rim," said Spalding coach Tony Martin, who in three years has built a powerhouse at the Severn school.
"The people there told me it was one of the best finals in the 16-year history of the tournament, and nobody expected us to be playing in it.
"In fact, the local newspaper printed our halftime score [Spalding down by 11] from Tuesday's game with Elkins, Texas, and said [Wednesday] that we would be playing in the consolation."
Spalding came from behind for a 77-69 win over Elkins (16-2) of Missouri City, Texas.
Elkins, led by 6-foot-8 swingman George Williams, who is headed to Houston, upset Arkansas' Central Little Rock (10-2), ranked 20th by USA Today, in its first game.
Spalding opened the tournament Monday with a 57-55 victory over Peoria of Central, Ill. Junior point guard Derrick Snowden's free throw with 25 seconds remaining put the Cavaliers up, 56-55, and junior Isaac Brooks made another from the line with one second left to seal it.
Chris Masters, one of four seniors on the team, led three Cavaliers in double digits with 11 points. Tremaine Robinson and senior James Bowen each scored 10, and Derrick Goode grabbed 11 rebounds.
Snowden was named to the King Cotton All-Tournament team along with Robinson, a 6-3 junior swingman.
King Cotton Classic Championship
(Wednesday's late result)
SPALDING -- Snowden 10, Brooks 2, Robinson 8, Goode 17, Pavolic 10, Masters 6, Ravello, 2, Bowen 4, Johnson 2. Totals: 26 5-11 61.
WHITE COUNTY -- Austin 7, Jolly 30, Jones 2, Gribble 15, Mitchell 8, Kirby 2. Totals: 25 8-12 64. Half: Spalding, 34-30
Pub Date: 1/01/99