The Student News Site of Perry Meridian High School


The Student News Site of Perry Meridian High School


The Student News Site of Perry Meridian High School


From Falcon to Final Four

Taylor posses the South Regional Champion trophy during his media session following their victory over Duke on Mar. 31 in Dallas, Texas Photo provided by Chip Alexander (The Raleigh News & Observer)

Heading into the ACC Tournament, the postseason hope for former Falcon Jayden Taylor and the North Carolina State Wolfpack was slim. But now, as the Cinderella story of the 2024 NCAA Tournament, Taylor and NC State are on their way to the Final Four. 

On a four-game losing streak and sitting at 17-14, the Wolfpack were looking at an NIT bid at most. As the 10 seed in the tournament, they matched up with 15-seeded Louisville in the first round. Two threes in back-to-back possessions by Taylor with three minutes to go stretched the Wolfpack’s lead, and they held on for the win. They advanced with a 94-85 victory over the Cardinals behind Taylor’s 18 points, eight rebounds, three assists and four steals. 

The Wolfpack continued their performance into the next round with an 18-point route of Syracuse. The next matchup for the Wolfpack, however, was the 2-seeded Duke Blue Devils who were ranked 11th nationally. Junior transfer Mohamed Diarra led the Wolfpack in a tight battle with the Blue Devils with 14 points and 16 rebounds as they took down the Blue Devils to advance to the semifinals of the ACC Tournament. 

NC State met 3-seeded Virginia in the semifinals with postseason play in their sights. The Wolfpack battled from start to finish. Regulation culminated with a rushed three-pointer at the buzzer by NC State Grad Senior Michael O’Connell to send the game to overtime. In overtime, fellow Grad Senior and fan favorite DJ Burns Jr. scored seven points sending the Wolfpack to the finals of the ACC Tournament for a chance to punch a ticket to the NCAA Tournament. 

The Wolfpack met North Carolina in the finals with their only hope at the NCAA Tournament being the automatic bid that goes to the tournament winner. The 1-seeded Tar Heels were on an eight-game winning streak and ranked 4th in the nation heading into the tournament finals. Taylor, who had started 29 of the 36 games, took the role of the sixth man in the finals, a role he would hold for the rest of the run. NC State dominated the game, trailing by two at most, while Grad Senior DJ Horne put up 29 and Burns Jr. tallied 20 as the Wolfpack won their fifth game in five days and punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. 

NC State entered the tournament as an 11 seed matching up against the six seed Texas Tech in the first round. The Wolfpack led by as many as 17 points and behind junior Ben Middlebrooks’ 21 points, advanced to the round of 32 for the first time since 2015, with a 80-67 victory. 

The next matchup for the Wolfpack was Horizon League champion Oakland, a fellow Cinderella who upset national powerhouse Kentucky in the first round. The two Cinderellas battled for a spot in the Sweet Sixteen, going into overtime tied at 66. With a minute to go in overtime, Taylor drilled a dagger three to stretch the Wolfpack lead to five and keep them dancing. 

“You just got to have confidence when you’re out there,” Taylor said in an interview with Pack Pride of NC State athletics. “They doubled DJ (Burns), he passed it to me and trusted me to make the shot… it’s big. Amazing moment.”

Coming off of the high of the overtime victory over Oakland, the Wolfpack met up with 2-seeded Marquette in the sweet sixteen. NC State got off to a great start taking a 9-7 lead four minutes into the game and never trailed from there. They took a 13-point lead into the half and advanced to the elite eight with a 67-58 victory. 

Their elite eight matchup was a rematch from the ACC Tournament against the Blue Devils of Duke. The second battle between the two was a back-and-forth battle for the most part. The Wolfpack took the lead with 12 minutes to go, and that’s when Burns Jr. took over the game scoring 17 points in the last 12 minutes. Burns Jr., who has taken the nation by storm due to his combination of size and footwork, sent NC State to the Final Four for the first time since 1983 with their 76-64 victory over Duke. 

Taylor’s spark off the bench and his performance during NC State’s Cinderella run is something the entire Perry community can be proud of. Now, he will be headed to the biggest stage in college basketball, the Final Four. Taylor is the first male PMHS grad to make the Final Four, the first grad since Katie Douglas in 2001. Taylor and the Wolfpack now take on their biggest test yet, Zach Edey and the Purdue Boilermakers, with a ticket to the national championship on the line. Tip-off is scheduled for Saturday at 6:09 p.m.

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