Helms upbeat, but 'I hurt for them'
When a state championship game is decided at the last second, it creates this surreal moment in time.
Kinston's boys basketball team trailed after each of the first three quarters in Saturday's 2A final, played in the UNC Tar Heels' Smith Center. So the Vikings' 56-53 victory over Cuthbertson was well-earned, but also that much more heartbreaking for the Cavaliers.
The Vikings went bananas.
They defeated Cuthbertson in almost identical fashion in last year's state title game, so this was a repeat feat for the Vikings.
Kinston also won it all in 2010, so four-year starter Josh Dawson is graduating as a three-time state champion.
The Vikings' dynasty has come at Cuthbertson's expense.
While Kinston celebrated, several Cavaliers were sprawled on the floor in tears.
Six of Cuthbertson's top seven players were seniors, and most took the loss hard.
"I hurt for them," CHS coach Mike Helms said Monday. "Obviously it was our goal and to get that close ..."
Helms tried to give his team perspective afterward.
"The things you'll remember are your teammates," Helms recalls telling them. "The guys you sweat and competed with the last four and a half months."
Over the last two years, Cuthbertson has won 90.9 percent of its boys basketball games (60-6 combined record).
Six of the Cavs' top seven are three-year varsity players who can boast an 82-14 record during that span.
Since the school opened in 2009-10, Helms has led the Cavs to 97 wins against 25 defeats.
Helms wants Cuthbertson's nine seniors to remember what they helped build rather than focus on the result of their last game.
"I told them they had an amazing four-year run and that they were great teammates and great friends," Helms said. "That's what they'll remember from all this.
"It was a heck of a year (29-4 record). We just didn't win the last one."
Helms will have a completely different cast around point guard Shelton Mitchell next season.
Mitchell, a Wake Forest commitment, averaged 20.3 and 4.3 assists as a junior.
"Shelton and I have already talked about this being the year that he's the leader and he understands that," Helms said.
Helms hears rumors every year that Mitchell will transfer, but doesn't expect that to happen.
"I'd be surprised, but you never know," Helms said. "He loves Cuthbertson and he's real close to his family. He wouldn't have much to gain from leaving."