Friday, December 28, 2012

HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational notebook

After Thursday night’s 69-50 loss to New Hampton (N.H.) Prep in the first round of the HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational on Thursday, Greenfield coach Rob Salter brought freshman guard Jalen Harris to the interview room.
Harris’ line wasn’t the most impressive – five points, two assists and two rebounds – but his play was vital to the Knights in the second half as they outscored the Huskies 33-31, and even were on the cusp of an amazing comeback.
The coach looked at the only freshman on the roster and smiled, even with the pain of the team’s first blowout loss of the season still fresh.
Greenfield freshman Jalen Harris looks to drive
during the Knights' 69-50 loss to New
Hampton (N.H.) Prep on Thursday night at the
HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational in
Raleigh. (Sheldon Vick | Special to the Times)
“Jalen came in and got us going offensively,” Salter said.
Salter was referring to the second half when Harris had an old-fashioned three-point play and both of his assists as the Knights cut as much as a 24-point lead down to 14 in the fourth quarter.
He also had a steal and helped the Greenfield defense put on a full-court press that had the Huskies’ flustered for a couple of tense minutes. Eventually, New Hampton coach Pete Hutchins called a timeout to give his team some words of wisdom.
“To their credit,” Hutchins said. “In the second half, they changed some things up and made us work.”
If not for a couple of missed layups soon after the timeout, the comeback may have continued.
Harris also stopped a brutal opening to the game that saw Greenfield trail 15-2 with a layup with 1:06 left in the first quarter.
The freshman said it was a change in mindset that helped the Knights get back and compete in the second half.
“We just started playing defense,” he said. “We didn’t do it well (in the first half).”

Big men neutralized

Coming in to Thursday night’s game, all eyes were on the inside game of the highly-regarded New Hampton squad.
The Huskies’ main man was 6-foot-9 power forward Noah Vonleh, who has signed to play at Indiana. He chose the Hoosiers over North Carolina and Ohio State, and came in averaging a double-double.
He looked dominant at times, including a couple of nice moves to get easy dunks, but was not the overwhelming presence many may have expected, finishing with 13 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.
But the other inside players – 6-foot-10 sophomore Jeremy Miller, 6-8 junior Tory Miller, and 6-7 junior Mike Auger – were mostly neutralized.
Jeremy Miller had six points and five rebounds, while Tory Miller fouled out in the fourth quarter with six points and only two boards. Auger had the best night with seven points and seven boards.
“They did a great job with our bigs,” Hutchins said. “And our post defense wasn’t as good as it should be. … Their smaller lineup was difficult for our kids to adjust to.”
Only problem was the guard play of Travis Jorgenson and Mike LeBlanc more than made up for it.
Senior point guard Jorgenson had 10 points, seven assists and five steals; while shooting guard LeBlanc made 4 of 7 from beyond the 3-point line.


Knights’ guard Xavier Mills admitted his team was taken aback a little by the “atmosphere” in the large  Holliday Gym on the campus of Broughton High School.
“I don’t want to blame anything on it,” he said afterwards, “but I think we played much better once we got used to it. A lot of people on our team hadn’t played in an atmosphere like this before.”
The shooting woes of the Knights showed this may have been true.
Greenfield made just 17 of 49 shots from the field, a dismal 34.7 percent. It was worse in the first half, as the Knights hit only 1 of 10 from 3-point range and only 7 of 27 (25.9 percent) total.

Rematch in losers’ bracket

The nightcap on Thursday night between Cuthbertson and Hampton (Va.) set up a rematch.
The Crabbers pulled out a 61-59 win in overtime, sending the Cavaliers into the losers’ bracket of the Summit Hospitality Bracket where they will meet up with Kinston, a 57-50 loser to DeSoto (Texas), which was ranked as high as No. 9 nationally.
The game between the Vikings and Cavaliers will be a rematch of last year’s 2-A N.C. High School Athletic Association state championship, won by Kinston.

ACC recruits shine

Atlantic Coast Conference fans got a small glimpse of the future during Thursday’s play.
The Crabbers’ Anthony “Cat” Barber, an N.C. State recruit, scored 26 points – including six in overtime – in the 61-59 OT win.
Duke recruit Matt Jones had 17 points for DeSoto (Texas) in its win over Kinston.
The two will meet Friday night at 7:20 p.m.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Still a lot of high school football left

While the high school football season in North Carolina ended Dec. 1, there's still a lot to talk about and we'll have it here over the coming days, weeks and months.

For starters, the Shrine Bowl is Saturday and Hunt High's Lewis Neal is playing, the first Warrior to be selected for that elite honor since 1999. I hope to have a story in Monday's edition of The Wilson Times on Neal's experience in the game in Spartanburg, S.C.

Monday could also be the day Neal lands on The Associated Press all-state team. The LSU commit and 3-A Big East Conference Defensive Player of the Year appears to be a strong bet to be one of the four defensive line selections.

Looking ahead, The Wilson Times will unveil its 2012 all-area football team in the Christmas Day edition. We will honor the top 36 players from our eight coverage teams: Beddingfield, Fike, Hunt, Southern Nash, C.B. Aycock, Greene Central, SouthWest Edgecombe and Southern Nash. There will be 12 members each on the Offense, Defense and Ironman squads. We will also recognize the top offensive and defensive players and the Ironman of the year. So please be sure to save 50¢ for a copy if you are not a subscriber.

Looking way ahead, Feb. 6, 2013, is National Signing Day and there should be a banner crop of football and soccer players ready to ink their National Letters of Intent. We will be there and I hope to have some information on who's going where prior to the big day.

Finally, there's a lot of football head coaching vacancies around the state, including a few in our area. Namely, Greene Central has an opening, as does Northern Nash, which is out of our coverage range but in the Big East Conference. I'm told some of these openings may be filled in the near future and we will have those stories as they happen.

So stay tuned, football fans!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Holiday streak nearing an end for Lady Rams?

We're still 16 days away from the latest rendition of the Farris & Farris Holiday Basketball Tournament,   but a losing streak that has reached 10 games for the Greene Central girls may very well be in jeopardy.

The Lady Rams, winless last season, are out to a 4-2 start under the direction of first-year head coach Meredith Franklin entering tonight's game at Fike.

Triggering the resurgence has been the freshman backcourt duo of Malaysia Lancaster and Dasheka Mason, who have each allowed Franklin's frenetic pace to thrive.

And while Lancaster may be a point guard on the floor, her role doesn't begin and end with distributing the basketball. The 5-foot-5 presence scored 23 points in wins over Jones Senior and North Lenoir and pulled down 14 rebounds in a 49-47 victory over Ayden-Grifton.

Greene Central hasn't won a game in the event formerly known as the Eastern Carolina Classic since 2006, when the Lady Rams took a 52-46 consolation win over Hunt.

As is tradition with the holiday tournament, Greene Central is matched up against the host school in the semifinal game, which will be 2-A Eastern Plains Conference rival Beddingfield the day after Christmas.

The Lady Bruins, albeit a speedy bunch, are 0-4 as they prepare to take on county rival Hunt in less than an hour. Turnovers have plagued Beddingfield in the early going, including 39 giveaways in a loss to Southern Nash.

While the two teams will get an earlier look at each other with an EPC clash set for Dec. 18 on Beddingfield's floor, Greene Central can no longer be classified as an easy out in holiday play.

Hunt's Neal named to NCPreps.com all-state team

Congratulations to Hunt senior Lewis Neal, who was named to the NCPreps.com all-state football team. Postseason honors continue to pile up for Neal, who will play in the Shrine Bowl on Dec. 15 in Spartanburg, S.C., then head to Texas for the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl and International Bowl later this month.

He and Josh Joyner were nominated for The Associated Press all-state team, which will be announced in a week or so.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Barton men's basketball notebook

The disappointment of Monday night's 91-86 loss to Shaw University by the Barton's men's basketball team will linger a bit longer than a usual defeat.

The No. 10-ranked Bulldogs won't play another game until a Jan. 3 tussle at Wilson Gym against Conference Carolinas foe King College. The King Tornado are unbeaten at 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the league, and will be a nice focus point for Barton's players over the Christmas break.

"As of right now, we are disappointed," senior forward Jon Hart said right after the game. But we don't dwell too long on it. We'll work hard and be ready for conference play."

Coach Ron Lievense minced few words when picking out one thing his team will need to improve on if it wants to live up to the lofty ranking it already has achieved in the National Association of Basketball Coaches' Top 25.

"We need to get tough," he said.

Senior guard Gerald Boston, who scored 20 points in the loss, said the team expected to complete the season sweep of the Bears.

"We aren't happy going into the break like this," he said. "We're going to have to sit with it for a while, then get back to work."

The Bulldogs out-rebounded the Bears on their home court in the first 20 minutes by a 19-15 margin, and had a 6-1 edge on the offensive glass.

That reversed in the second half, as Shaw's size took over for a 20-12 rebounding lead.

Making it more remarkable was that the Bears shot 17-of-27 in the second half, leaving few chances for them on the offensive side.

"We weren't as tough on the rebounds as we needed to be," Lievense said. "There were times when they ripped it right our of our hands."

Moving up

Barton moved up to No. 10 (from 11) in the latest National Association of Basketball Coaches' Top 25 poll on Tuesday.

The votes were taken before Monday night's loss, so it did not factor in to the voting.

Here is a look at the poll:

NABC/Division II Men's Basketball Poll(Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 -- Regular Season Poll #3)
The weekly poll is being conducted by 16 members of the NABC, two representing each of the eight NCAA Division II regions.
All records are through games of Sunday, Dec. 2. The next poll will be released Tuesday, Dec. 11.
West Liberty (W.Va.)
(12 first place votes)
Washburn (Kan.)
(1 first place vote)
Metropolitan State (Colo.)
(1 first place vote)
(1 first place vote)
Bellarmine (Ky.)
(1 first place vote)
Western Washington
Southern Indiana
Seattle Pacific (Wash.)
Cal Poly Pomona
Barton (N.C.)
Lincoln Memorial (Tenn.)
Northwest Missouri State
Findlay (Ohio)
St. Cloud State (Minn.)
Franklin Pierce (N.H.)
Kentucky Wesleyan
Indianapolis (Ind.)
Winona State (Minn.)
Christian Brothers (Tenn.)
Minnesota State
Augusta State (Ga.)
Indiana (Pa.)
North Alabama
Assumption (Mass.)
West Texas A&M
Dropped out: Saint Leo (20), Montevallo (21), Stonehill (23), Alaska-Anchorage (25)
Others receiving votes: Drury (Mo.) 30, Tarleton State (Texas) 25, Alaska-Anchorage 24, Winston-Salem State (N.C.) 24, Fort Lewis (Colo.) 14, Harding (Ark.) 13, Post (Conn.) 12, Tampa (Fla.) 11, Benedict (S.C.) 10, Newman (Kan.) 9, Wayne State (Mich.) 9, Chico State (Calif.) 7, Cal State-San Bernardino (Calif.) 5, Colorado Mesa 5, Missouri-St. Louis 5, Florida Southern 4, King (Tenn.) 4, Edinboro (Pa.) 3, Massachusetts-Lowell 3, Henderson State (Ark.) 2.

Tough venue

Shaw's Spaulding Gym is small, hot and loud.

It's why the Bears love playing there.

It's also why opponents fear to come.

The Bears, who advanced to the NCAA Division II Sweet 16 last season, didn't lose a game at their Raleigh home last season. This was the first home game for them in 2012-13.

"Coach (Lievense) did us a favor and gave us a home and home," Shaw coach Cleo Hill Jr. said. "Not a lot of folks will do that. Not a lot like playing us here.

"Especially as good as we were last year. It made scheduling difficult. But Coach (Lievense) he likes a good challenge, and we are thankful for him and Barton."

In all, Shaw has won 16 straight at Spaulding. The last Bears loss at home was a 48-46 defeat at the hands of Elizabeth City State on Jan. 17, 2011.

The Bears went 10-0 at home last year and 8-1 the year before.

Big man on campus

"He's a GROWN MAN."

It was a phrase uttered by many before, during and after Monday night's Shaw University win over Barton.

And everyone was referring to senior center Karron Johnson.

The Richmond, Va., native transferred from Midland Community College to Shaw and hasn't disappointed.

The 6-foot-8 big man dominated when he was on the court Monday night, scoring 27 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and showing a deft passing touch with five assists.

He had 26 points, 10 boards and and one assist in the first meeting.

Lievense called him a "grown man." So did Barton sports information director John Hackney. So did two members of the Shaw sports information staff.

Fans could be heard saying it over and over after any one of his four power dunks. He had his way most of the time, hitting all 11 shots he took, as well as making 5-of-9 from the free-throw line.

He may have had a little bit of a chip on his shoulder as play went on.

After Barton beat the Bears 77-67 to open the season, Shaw tumbled out of the rankings and hasn't returned. The team's two losses are to the Bulldogs and No. 17 Kentucky Wesleyan. Both on the road.

"It's a huge win for us," he said. "Not only is Barton No. 11 in the nation, but we felt kind of disrespected by our not being ranked.

"Plus, we don't lose here. That's a tradition we want to hold on to."

And 6-foot-4 Barton forward Jon Hart said it too. He should know, as he matched up much of the night against him.

"One of the best I've gone up against," Hart said.

"We won't see another big man like him for a while," Lievense said in an almost relieved tone.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

For those wondering about Northern Guilford senior running back T.J. Logan, yes, he is that good. If you haven't heard by now, Logan kicked his legend into the stratosphere by running for 510 yards (that's right, 510) and eight touchdowns in the Nighthawks' 64-26 obliteration of Charlotte Catholic in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-AA championship game Saturday night in Winston-Salem.

Not only are both of those numbers records for an NCHSAA championship game, they are also both state records. The previous single-game rushing record was 490 yards by Lejeune's Akile Jones against Holly Ridge Dixon in 2011. Logan tied the state record for TDs in a game, also held by Hope Mills' Donnie Davis (1960), Julius Pickett of Swansboro (1999) and Harnett Central's Mike Hill (2003). The previous record for TDs in a championship game was seven, set by Albemarle's T.A. McLendon against Wallace-Rose Hill in the 2001 1-AA final.

Logan scored on runs of 46, 27, 80, 85, 19, 14, 82, and 73 yards and the last, which came on a fake punt, has caused considerable grumbling on various Internet message boards. I wasn't at the game and I didn't speak with Logan or Nighthawks head coach Johnny Roscoe, who purportedly caused some ire by claiming the fake punt was done to avoid injury. 

Here's the deal, there's no such thing as running up the score. You play every second of the game to score or keep the other team from scoring, with the exception of taking a knee to run out the clock in the final seconds. But if you want to keep playing then, go right ahead. There are any number of arguments to make about the lack of class (and I hate that word) and sportsmanship, not to mention Roscoe's lack of prudence in keeping Logan injury-free for UNC head coach Larry Fedora. And those arguments are valid but as far as I'm concerned, Catholic could have prevented any this and Logan's TDs if they  had just tackled him. 

That's how the game works. 

Of course, it won't matter in the court of public opinion but this is mine.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

We've got a big notebook planned in Monday's Between Fridays section in The Wilson Times as well as coverage in the paper, online, on the blog and on Twitter all week on the Hunt High football team's big win over Cleveland in round 3 and "three-match" with Northern Guilford in Greensboro on Friday.
Sunday morning and still feeling the tingliness from watching an epic high school football playoff game Friday night.

When Hunt cornerback Malik Williams, in front of Cleveland wide receiver Alex Raines, knocked down the pass from another Rams receiver, Donqua Williams (who had taken a lateral from quarterback Aaron Farmer), in the end zone with no time left, the Warriors had amazingly survived a game they alternately looked like they would dominate or have no chance of winning.

Cleveland, after a long opening kickoff runback, needed two plays to score a touchdown. But Hunt, behind its great senior tailback Josh Joyner, surged to a 21-7 lead that could have been more if they'd converted a turnover, not to mention a failed fourth-down pass on a faked punt that had six points written all over it at first.

But the Rams offense not only came back in the third quarter, their defense did something no other team had done all season — shut down Joyner. I have to admit on one of those three-and-out possessions with Joyner in the wildcat and barely making to to the line of scrimmage, I wondered if that would be the end of Hunt's season.

But the Warriors went to the air to regain the lead and then their defense just did what it had done all year — keep the other team out of the end zone. The Rams got to Hunt's 17 but Lewis Neal and Javis Neal Hill batted down Farmer's passes before Williams knocked away Cleveland's last-gasp heave.

Now Hunt will be the guest of two-time state 3-AA champion Northern Guilford in next week's N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-AA Eastern Final after losing to the Nighthawks in that game in Wilson the past two seasons. The Warriors have put together a three-year run that is the best in Wilson County since those legendary Fike teams won three straight 4-A championships in the late 1960s. The Cyclones, as they were known then, would take half of Wilson to away games, the line of buses a quarter-mile long.

It would be nice if Wilson got back on the bus, so to speak, and hit the highway to support the Warriors in Greensboro next week. Because if you love high school football, this one promises to be an epic showdown.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Hunt High football team has kept its focus limited to the job at hand — as head coach Randy Raper would say, "One week, one game, one practice at a time," — all season. While the tendency may be there for the Warriors to peek toward a possible third meeting with two-time state 3-AA champion Northern Guilford, they most assuredly are giving Cleveland all their attention this week. And that would be a wise decision.

The Rams exploded onto the N.C. High School Athletic Association football season in 2011, their first year at the varsity level. After a quirky 28-27 loss to North Johnston in an opener that took four days to complete, the Rams lost just three more times, including a 64-7 thrashing administered by Havelock in the 3-A Eastern final, a week before Jim Bob Bryant's Rams won the state 3-A title.

 For half the season, Cleveland, more than Hunt, seemed to be the true heavyweight in the 3-AA East. But then Triton clipped Cleveland 43-40 in Erwin and the Hawks took all the acclaim in the Eastern Carolina Conference. But Triton, shockingly, went down 33-0 to D.H. Conley in the first round and, the following week, Cleveland, after surviving 40-33 at West Brunswick, returned the favor to Conley in round 2 by a convincing 47-25 margin. 

Now comes the matchup everyone's wanted to see since the Rams and Warriors met in Cleveland's jamboree in early August. The rumored outcome of that scrimmmage was Cleveland scoring five times to four by Hunt. Of course that means nothing now, other than the fact Hunt's vaunted defense knows what it's up against. The Warriors haven't been as dominant in the second half of the season as they were in the first five weeks. They were fortunate to escape Cardinal Gibbons last Friday night after having a chance to put away the Crusaders midway through the fourth quarter.

But this time of year, it's not about winning big, it's just about winning. And while all the talk before and after that game kept vacillating back to Gibbons missing starting quarterback Shawn Stankavage with a knee injury, what I took away from it was Hunt winning a big playoff game on the road. The Warriors haven't played in the postseason anywhere but Warrior Stadium since 2008 when most of the current team was in middle school. Then to get a big W over an unbeaten team with revenge on its mind (Hunt eliminated Gibbons in the 2011 third round in Wilson) just spoke volumes about the Warriors.

 Of course, that win will mean zilch when the ball is kicked off Friday night. But it's the main reason I ended up taking the Warriors to beat Cleveland after initially considering the Rams.

 Maybe Hunt is destined to get one more shot at Northern Guilford and its star running back T.J. Logan. If so, the Warriors will have to do it in Greensboro, which might not be a bad thing.

 Hunt 31, Cleveland 29