CHAPEL HILL — In 47 years, Olympic High School had never won a major sports state championship. That’s all history now.
The Trojans, ranked No. 1 in The Observer’s Sweet 16 poll and as high as No. 4 in the nation, held off Raleigh Broughton 56-53 for the N.C. 4A championship at the Smith Center Saturday, ending nearly five decades of frustration. The championship game felt like a home game for Broughton, which had a sea of fans make the short drive from Raleigh. Many were wearing white T-shirts with “Cap Pride” on the front in purple lettering, waving pom-poms and screaming in the stands.
Olympic (30-0) conquered that tough Broughton crowd and an even tougher Broughton team (27-6), polishing off the first unbeaten season by a Mecklenburg County public school since West Charlotte in 1986. West Charlotte beat Raleigh Broughton in overtime.
“They had a lot of fans packed in here,” said Olympic senior point guard Jevon Patton. “It feels so good. All our hard work has paid off, going to the gym, to the weight room and just being together as a family. Man, 30-0. That’s something as you get older, you can get together and talk about.”
Broughton scored the first basket Saturday, but only led for about 55 seconds all game. Several times, Olympic threatened to get to a double-digit lead and get some separation, but the Trojans struggled to prevent Broughton from getting offensive rebounds – the put-back baskets keeping the Caps in contention – and Olympic only made 12-of-23 free throws.
At one point in the second half, Olympic made only 1-of-7 attempts. For the game, Broughton outrebounded Olympic 38-31, getting 18 offensive boards.
“I don’t think it was nerves at all,” Trojans coach Ty Baumgardner said, fighting back tears in the postgame media session. “I think it was a combination of them going after (offensive rebounds) and us standing around and not blocking out and tracking the ball down. Free throw-wise, we’ve got some great shooters, but if you look at our free throw percentage as a team for the year, it wasn’t that great.”
Olympic worked to a 44-36 lead early in the fourth quarter, but Broughton point guard Devonte’ Graham, an Appalachian State recruit, simply willed his team back into the game. He finished with 23 points, on 9-of-25 shooting, and had seven rebounds, six assists and two steals.
Graham scored 11 of his team’s final 14 points. With about two minutes to play, he made his only 3-pointer of the game. That tied the score at 48, and Olympic needed to make free throws to win. The Trojans made eight of their final 10, including 6-for-6 from championship game MVP Deriece Parks (19 points) and CJ Jackson (17 points, four rebounds). Jackson made two with 20 seconds left for a 54-50 lead and two more with one second left for the final margin.
For the game, Parks and Jackson made 11-of-12 free throw attempts and 7-of-15 3-point attempts.
And Olympic’s poise in the finals seconds didn’t surprise Broughton coach Jeff Ferrell, whose team was in the championship for the first time in 27 years.
“When I scouted Olympic,” he said, “I told myself that if it’s tight at the end, this is a team that looks like they stay composed and won’t get rattled. We tied it at 48 and they didn’t get rattled. (Jackson) made four free throws in a row and they just kept their momentum going.”
When it was over – after Graham’s three-quarter court attempt to tie fell wide left – Olympic’s players made a big pile across from their bench. Everyone’s mouth seemed to come agape at the same time.
Their look said it all: “We did it.”
Finally. After 47 years.
“It was a really good game from start to finish,” the Trojans’ center, B.J. Gladden, said, “and that’s how state championship games are supposed to be. Broughton’s really good. It was like a war out there. They would score, we would score, and I’m just happy we got a state championship.”
And a few memories to last a lifetime.