Cannon School coach Che’ Roth said he would rather not have played Charlotte Latin at Charlotte Latin Saturday to win a state championship.
“That wasn’t exactly our choice,” Roth said after watching his team beat the Hawks 71-69 in the N.C. 4A Independent Schools final. “I would’ve liked to have played them on a neutral site, just because Latin’s so good here, and we’ve just been here a month ago, but beggars can’t be choosers. We’re just glad to have been here and have come away with a really hard-fought win.”
Cannon (27-6) finished the year on a nine-game win streak and won its first state championship in 14 years. The Cougars denied Charlotte Latin (22-8) its first title in 16 years.
Roth’s team led, pretty much, from start to finish, after winning the first quarter 19-7. But led by 6-foot senior guard RJ Johnson, who finished with 36 points, Latin made a big push in the fourth quarter.
Johnson, signed to Holy Cross, scored the Hawks’ first 10 points in the fourth quarter and tied the game at 55 on a 3-pointer. But Cannon sophomore Jaden Bradley (27 points) answered with back-to-back 3s that pushed the lead back to six.
But four times in the final 3 minutes, 35 seconds, Latin trimmed the lead to 1, including after Johnson hit two free throws with 17.3 seconds left.
After Cannon’s Jarvis Moss hit a free throw, still with 17.3 seconds left, Latin had a final possession to win or tie.
Johnson got a screen and moved to his left. Then he took a step-back jumper, a three-pointer that likely would’ve delivered a championship, on a sold-out, standing room only kind of Saturday afternoon crowd that included former Hawks’ great Anthony Morrow.
When Johnson left the shot go, the Latin crowd stood. It was just slightly short.
There was a collective sigh from the Latin side.
Cannon stormed the court in celebration. History was done.
“It’s a great feeling just knowing that all the hard work paid off,” Bradley said. “The first half we didn’t play our best. We had to make adjustments and our defense translated into offense and we were able to convert.”
THREE WHO MATTERED
Bradley: 5-star sophomore is ranked by some publications as the No. 1 point guard nationally in his class. He looked like it Saturday, showcasing a consistent jumper once seen as a weak point. Just 16 years old with two years of high school left, Bradley said he wants to win more rings.
Johnson: One of the best performances from Latin player since Morrow was a star at the school. Morrow graduated in 2004.
Jarvis Moss, Cannon School: made big shots all game, including 3 of 4 free throws in the final 18.8 seconds. His 18 points were second most on the team.
THEY SAID IT
“I’m staying at Cannon and enjoying my time. We just got a state championship and I’m going to try to get another one next year.” — Bradley, when asked if there were any truth to rumors he might transfer to a national power like IMG Academy or Montverde Academy.
Charlotte Latin 7 20 18 24 — 69
Cannon 19 12 18 22 — 71
CHARLOTTE LATIN 69 — RJ Johnson 36, Felkner 2, Clements 2, Montgomery 7, Smith 2, Graham Calton 16, Grams 2
CANNON SCHOOL 71 — Jaden Bradley 27, Elijah Orminston 15, Dibble 4, Jarvis Moss 18, Nix 5
CISAA All-Conference First Team: Jaden Bradley, Cannon School (unanimous player of the year); Randy Johnson, Charlotte Latin; DJ Nix, Cannon School; Aden Holloway, Covenant Day; Graham Calton, Charlotte Latin
Second Team: Jarvis Moss, Cannon School; Michael Zanoni, Providence Day; Peter Lash, Charlotte Christian; Thomas Haley, Covenant Day; Bryce Cash, Charlotte Christian
NCISAA 4A All-State Team: Cam Hayes, Greensboro Day; Jaden Bradley, Cannon School; Justus Ajobar, Christ School; Cole Sinclair, Durham Academy; RJ Johnson, Charlotte Latin; Bryce Harris, Greensboro Day; Derrick Nix, Cannon School; Toby Harris, Durham Academy; Deante Green, Christ School; Brady O’Connell, Raleigh Ravenscroft; Brock Williams, Greensboro Day; Aden Holloway, Covenant DayThis article appeared in The Charlotte Observer