By LAWRENCE KEECH
At 4:20 Tuesday afternoon, the Washington Daily News was informed that Topsail High School would be allowed to play in Wednesday's second-round playoff game against Williamston High School.
Rumors circulated earlier this week that the Pirates had an ineligible player and had forfeited their season. Initially, one of the team's players was deemed ineligible, but a ruling by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association was overturned regarding the eligibility of the player, upholding the Pirates' conference championship.
Michelle Hillison, producer of NorthCarolina.IHigh.com, reported on that web site at 4 p.m. that "Topsail boys have been reinstated in the playoffs. The ineligible player in question at Topsail has had his eligibility verified, so they are back in the playoffs and will play Williamston (tonight)."
Hillison phoned the Daily News shortly before 4:30 p.m. to report the same.
Rick Strunk, the associate executive director of the NCHSAA, said the problems were simply a misunderstanding, but he hoped the particulars of this issue would "make people be more aware."
The ruling will require Williamston to travel to Topsail for the second round of the 1-A state basketball playoffs.
Topsail won its first-ever Coastal Plains Conference Tournament Championship last week, pulling out a 53-43 victory over Lejeune. Topsail entered the tournament as the fourth seed in the conference. Lejeune was the second seed. The victory avenged a 53-48 loss to Lejeune the previous week.
Topsail received a first-round bye in the state playoff pairings and was scheduled to play the winner of Monday night's Williamston vs. Columbia contest.
Williamston used a strong run at the end of the first half in that game to build a 10-point lead, then held off Columbia for the duration to claim a 70-58 triumph.
After the game, Gilmore reflected on the possibility of not having to play Topsail.
Strunk said the situation could have been much worse.
Williamston is 10-10 after Monday night's victory.
Topsail lost four of its last five regular season games, but it captured back-to-back wins in the conference tournament, including a 65-34 drumming of Pamlico County.