WILMINGTON — Gaqwez Hudson caught the inbounds pass with 6.7 seconds to go. There was no time to wait for someone else to come open. A shot needed to go up.
So he went at New Hanover’s Ridell Camidge, jump-stopping at the right elbow. Hudson’s pump fake didn’t get Camidge to jump, so he pivoted twice and had to force one up. He faded back, drifted to the left, flicked the wrist, and the shot fell through as the buzzer went off.
Panther Creek’s boys basketball team knocked off top-seeded New Hanover 52-50 in front of a boisterous Brogden Hall crowd on Friday night. The Catamounts will make their first appearance in the N.C. High School Athletic Association regionals since 2009.
“Coach drew it up to get the ball to me or Juan (Munoz). He wasn’t open, so I got the ball and I looked at the clock one time, I ran it down and tried to get an open shot. And it went in,” Hudson said.
It looked for a second that Hudson may try to lean into the defender to get a foul call. Instead, he jumped away from the defender and barely got a clean look.
“I just created a little separation. It was a hard shot. His hand was right near the ball when I shot it, but he just missed it,” Hudson said.
Hudson is one of nine seniors who Panther Creek will be sending to Fayetteville next week. The Catamounts, 22-5 overall and the 9-seed in the East bracket, will play 4-seed Millbrook.
“We have such a terrific senior class. I really believe that any of those guys on the court, if they had shot the ball, it was going in,” Panther Creek coach L.J. Hepp said. “I wanted these kids to be remembered. I was rooting for them like crazy to hang a banner, because it’s such a great group.”
No. 1 New Hanover (25-3) jumped out to a 15-9 lead after the first quarter and led 27-24 at halftime thanks in part to the Catamounts’ 9-of-19 free-throw shooting.
The host Wildcats were losing the ball on some full-court presses by Panther Creek but turning the ball over on others. Panther Creek mixed up its presses in the second half and, even though the foul count rose, so did the Catamounts’ points.
Munoz had six steals on the night, but he also picked up his fourth foul with 1:50 left in the third.
The Catamounts took their first lead of the game with seconds left in the third on an Elijah Fairfax jumper. A Hudson steal and long two made it 41-38 Panther Creek heading into the fourth.
“The steals helped me a lot. Defense wins championships, and tonight proves it,” said Munoz, who also had 12 points and five assists.
Hudson finished with 11 points, while Josh Maciejewski had 12 points on four 3-pointers that came at crucial times. Senior Nubian Spann had a team-high seven rebounds to go with six points.
Although fans were warned to not rush the court over the public address system, the “Catamount Chaos” couldn’t hold back after Hudson’s shot fell through.
The crowd had been loud from start to finish, with both student sections placed across the court from one another. The New Hanover pep band stayed active, even at halftime to provide the background music to a dance-off between student section leaders.
“It’s probably the best game I’ve ever played in in my life,” Munoz said.
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps