Whirlwind continues for Brunelli’s Warriors

Mar. 12, 2013 @ 09:17 PM

Nearly 800 N.C. High School Athletic Association boys and girls varsity basketball teams began the journey to Raleigh and Chapel Hill in October and J.F. Webb’s boys are now one of 16 squads left standing.

Webb meets Statesville Saturday in the 3-A state title game at N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum. The North Piedmont Conference Greyhounds enter the contest on a 14-game win streak, including a 74-71 victory over Hunter Huss of Gastonia in the Western Regional final.

Warrior coach Leo Brunelli and assistant coaches Everett Byrd and Cameron Davis were joined Monday in Durham by Webb Principal Calvin Timberlake and school Athletic Director Ricky Givens for the state championships press conference.

Brunelli said the last two weeks have been a whirlwind, but he’s drawing strength from a supportive Oxford community.

“Coming home from church yesterday and seeing the ‘Go Warriors’ on the McDonald’s sign,” said Brunelli. “That’s what it is to me about small towns and communities. That’s pretty special because you know you are a part of that.”

Webb advanced to the final by turning back defending state champion Rocky Mount, 68-64, Saturday in Fayetteville’s Eastern Regional final.

Statesville, which finished perfect against league opponents, rolled to the regional final before finally getting a test from Hunter Huss. Two of the Greyhounds’ three regular season losses came to 4-A opponents. The other came to Hickory, which fell to Rocky Mount in the 3-A title game a season ago.

Webb and Statesville are each seeking their school’s first boys basketball state title. The Warriors are making their first final appearance and the Greyhounds are back for the first time since 1985.

“They’re very focused,” Statesville coach Sonny Schofield said of his team, short on size, but not on speed. “They’re very together. They’re a close-knit family. They love each other and they play hard for each other.”

Schofield said Iredell County is buzzing about the Greyhounds, but he’s confident the team will remain grounded and focused.

“When we get in the gym, we’ll try to make it a business atmosphere,” said Schofield. “And get ready for the biggest game they’ve ever played in their life.”

Brunelli didn’t think it would take much to convince Warrior fans to come out Saturday in Raleigh, but he gave his best pitch anyway.

“Just wear red,” said Brunelli. “Our kids, when they walked out in the Crown Coliseum, and saw all that red in those blue seats, it was awesome. I want to give our kids a competitive advantage so if there’s anyway you can make it Saturday night to Reynolds Coliseum — you just don’t want to miss it.”

3-A state championship
J.F. Webb (26-5) vs Statesville (25-3)
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. at N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum (Doors open at 10:30 a.m.)
Pre-sale tickets ($9) are limited and can be purchased in the Webb gym Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. “Day of” tickets are $10. Webb students can purchase tickets during the school day.

Statesville at a glance
Coach: Sonny Schofield (11th season)
Nickname: Greyhounds; Colors: Royal blue and gray
Three consecutive North Piedmont Conference titles
No. 3 seed in Midwest; defeated No. 1 Hunter Huss of Gastonia, 74-71, in regional final
Scored 80 or more points 19 times this season
Leading scorer: Athletic 6-foot-1 wing player Jaquan Warren (16 points per game)

Championship schedule
Saturday, March 16
At Reynolds Coliseum

1-A girls — Noon
Graham River Mill Academy (28-3) vs Kernersville Bishop McGuinness (24-7)

1-A boys — 2:30 p.m.
Rocky Mount Prep (24-3) vs Winston Salem Prep (30-2)

3-A girls — 5 p.m.
Chapel Hill (29-1) vs Charlotte Harding University (23-4)

3-A boys — 7:30 p.m.
J.F. Webb (26-5) vs Statesville (25-3)

At Dean E. Smith Center
2-A girls — noon
Kinston (26-4) vs Canton Pisgah (26-6)

2-A boys — 2:30 p.m.
Kinston (27-2) vs Waxhaw Cuthbertson (29-3)

4-A girls — 5 p.m.
Millbrook (32-0) vs Greensboro Page (28-1)

4-A boys — 7:30 p.m.
Broughton (27-5) vs Charlotte Olympic (29-0)

Contact the writer at kholtzman@hendersondispatch.com.