Fearless Greyhounds await Webb in Saturday's state final
Rocky Mount coach Michael Gainey was less worried about stopping Isaiah Hicks and more concerned with shutting down the rest of J.F. Webb’s players in the teams’ 3-A Eastern Regional final meeting last Saturday in Fayetteville.
“Let him get his, McDonald’s All-American for a reason” was the mindset of the Gryphons’ coach.
Statesville head coach Sonny Schofield doesn’t make a habit of letting anybody get anything.
His Greyhounds (25-3) meet the Warriors (26-5) Saturday in the 3-A state final at 7:30 p.m. Both schools are seeking their first state title in boys basketball.
“When I do my defensive drills and breakdown, we practice stopping everybody,” said Schofield. “So no. We’re not going to try to let anybody do anything. We’re going to try to shut down everybody.”
Statesville has one player on their roster listed at taller than 6-foot-3, Jake Boulware, a 6-4 center.
The Greyhounds aren’t big like Rocky Mount, but they are athletic. And they plan on running.
“It’s about the coach reading and understanding what his players can do,” said Schofield. “And my players are fast, so I’m going to let them run.”
All signs point to a track meet today on the floor of N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum because Webb isn’t backing down either.
“They really like to get after it,” said Webb coach Leo Brunelli. “It should be a lot of fun and exciting because we’re going to try to run. We’re not going to change what we do. They’re so athletic and get after it that they’re going to run too.”
Statesville hasn’t lost since a Jan. 24 defeat to Hickory, the 2012 Western Regional champion. The Greyhounds have scored 80 or more points 19 times this season.
Two of Statesville’s three regular season losses came to 4-A opponents, Mallard Creek of Charlotte and Lake Norman.
The Greyhounds had been knocked out of the second round in each of the previous two postseasons.
“I know the guys are very pumped up about it,” said Schofield. “We’ve sort of been trying to get here for three years.”
Schofield said missed free throws in last season’s second round loss has weighed on seniors Jaquan Warren and Josh Gaither.
That hasn’t been a problem this season in the playoffs. Gaither was 14-of-14 at the line in the Greyhounds’ regional final win over Hunter Huss of Gastonia.
“This is all they talked about all summer long, getting to come up here to Raleigh,” said Schofield.
Hicks was also perfect from the charity stripe for Webb in its regional final, shooting 10-of-10.
Schofield said Statesville’s schedule has prepared his team for the Warriors’ 6-foot-9 North Carolina recruit.
“We’ve played against 6-9, 6-8, 6-7,” said Schofield. “The last game against Hunter Huss, they have a tradition of getting to the regionals. And they were bigger than we were. We don’t worry about size. We’re just going to play.”
They’ll battle a Webb team that has been stumbling out of the gate. The Warriors have had to overcome double-digit first half deficits in each of their last three contests.
“The bottom line with our team is there’s 32 minutes of basketball,” said Brunelli. “We can deal with just about anything. I think we’ve been well-tested this season.”
And despite the lackluster starts, Brunelli does believe the Warriors are peaking. And now, of course, is the time to do it.
“I think right now we’re starting to click on all cylinders,” said Brunelli. “I’m pretty sure we haven’t played our best game and that’s going to be Saturday night.”
3-A state championship
J.F. Webb (26-5) vs Statesville (25-3)
Reynolds Coliseum, 7:30 p.m.
TV: Time Warner Cable channel 520/streaming at News14.com.
Greyhounds to watch
Josh Gaither, donning the No. 10 jersey, was named the Western Regional’s most outstanding player after scoring 29 points in the final. The versatile 6-foot-2 senior averages 13 points per game.
Jaquan Warren, wearing No. 23, leads the team in scoring with 16 points per game. Greyhounds’ coach Sonny Schofield says the 6-foot-1 senior can “fly.”
Breon Borders, a senior wing player, averages 12 points a game. He wears No. 12.
Marquis Willis runs the offense from his point guard position. He too is a senior and sports the Greyhounds’ No. 15.
In the state playoffs
J.F. Webb, No. 4 seed
Averaging 71 points, allowing 52.2
First round, def. Asheboro 82-47
Second round, def. Southern Wayne 83-53
Third round, def. Chapel Hill 57-41
Eastern Regional semifinal, def. Eastern Alamance 65-56
Eastern Regional final, def. Rocky Mount 68-64
Statesville, No. 3
Averaging 85.6 points, allowing 64.2
First round, def. Northwest Cabarrus 103-64
Second round, def. North Forsyth 93-63
Third round, def. Northeast Guilford 88-71
Western Regional semifinal, def. Harding 70-52
Western Regional final, def. Hunter Huss 74-71
Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.