NCHSAA Playoffs: Sullivan nets 27 points to advance Ledford
Surrounded by top talent like Skylar McGee and Brandon Rothrock, Ledford point guard John Sullivan has never had to be the go-to guy for the Panthers.
He had to be Monday evening in the opening round of the state 3-A playoffs.
Without his stellar play, LHS would likely be taking inventory today and wondering what could have been. Instead, the No. 12 seed plays on Wednesday as they travel to fifth-seeded Concord after a 67-51 victory over A.C. Reynolds.
Sullivan pocketed a game-high 27 points, getting to the basket and line with his dribble penetration. He did most of his damage with McGee and Rothrock on the bench with foul trouble.
“Whenever we got Skylar and Brandon out, we have to look for other people to score,” Sullivan said. “My teammates had confidence in me to take over and get the points that we needed. I felt confident in myself to do that.”
Sullivan was not the only Panther that contributed big minutes. Dillon Pierce scored 11 points, hitting key baskets first period to keep Ledford in the game.
“It's nice to know we were able to win this game with other people stepping up,” said Leonard, who guided the Panthers to their first playoff win in more than a decade. I have always loved John's attitude. He has been one of those bulldog-type point guards. Here lately, he has really been able to get into the lane and finish. They singled out Brandon and Skylar, but then John stepped it up big time.”
The 21st-seeded Rockets came to play early on, taking a 16-9 lead after the first period. If not for Pierce's seven points, the hole could have been much deeper.
The first period also saw Rothrock exit after picking up a second foul. With a Reynolds defender glued to him most of the night, the sharpshooter expanded his game by driving the ball. The Rockets were ready for him, picking up two charges to send him to the bench.
The team responded in his absence, scoring 16 points to only four for the Rockets in the second period. Ledford held a 25-20 lead at intermission.
McGee's triple halfway through the third quarter had the Panthers up 12, but it would be the last basket for the big man for quite some time. He picked up his third and fourth fouls 16 seconds apart, sending him to the bench to watch.
It was at that moment Sullivan began to really turn it on. Taking advantage of the spread offense Ledford runs, the lane was cleared for him to take his defender one-on-one. Almost every time he took the route he made a layup or got fouled. His scoop shot with 42 seconds to go third quarter had extended the lead to 44-28.
“If he gets to the rim he is going to finish most of the time,” Leonard said. “He took advantage of what they gave him.”
Reynolds rallied and were down by only six after a pair of drives to the basket by Rico Dowdle and Kavon Watkins. But Sullivan continued to deliver, scoring nine points over the final four minutes to help the Panthers finish on a 16-5 run.
“Coach all season has talked about how we are a special team and we have the chance to be that,” Sullivan said. “We are really happy with what we have done this season.”
Notes: McGee finished with 15 points, as did Dowdle for the Rockets … Rothrock ended up with seven points for the 18-8 Panthers.