‘Dream come true’ at regionals for Webb, but Brunelli keeps focus
J.F. Webb’s Leo Brunelli enjoyed his introduction to Crown Coliseum, but the Warriors’ coach was more focused on getting back to Oxford for practice.
Coaches and representatives from the 32 teams across four classifications that qualified for this week’s 3-A Eastern Regional descended on Fayetteville Monday for an introductory press conference before touring the host facilities, Crown Coliseum and adjacent Crown Arena.
Brunelli’s Webb squad faces Eastern Alamance Friday in the regional semifinal. The winner of the regional final moves on to the state championship next weekend at N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum.
“What I plan to do on the ride back is get my head, my mind clear from all this and just really start on preparation,” said Brunelli, “just really make sure we don’t miss out on Monday’s practice because of all of this.”
Webb and Eastern Alamance are joined in the 3-A regional by defending state champion Rocky Mount, making its fourth consecutive regional appearance, and West Craven, which earned its second straight regional invite.
Webb is making its first regional appearance since former Wake Forest guard Taron Downey suited up for the Warriors. Oklahoma State standout JamesOn Curry donned the Eastern Alamance green and yellow the last time the Eagles made it.
“You don’t know what you’ve been missing,” said Brunelli. “You really don’t. To play at this venue at this stage, is a dream. And now it’s coming true.”
Brunelli wasn’t worried about his team adjusting to the shooting surroundings at the 9,500-seat Crown Coliseum with the Warriors having already played this season in the Greensboro Coliseum in addition to a shoot-around in the University of South Carolina’s Colonial Life Arena.
“Good basketball players, you can throw them out on the playground pavement,” said Brunelli. “Good basketball players are going to play.”
Eastern Alamance played in a holiday tourney final this season against host George Washington High School of Danville, Va. at Averett University’s 2,500 seat Grant Center.
“I’m hoping that’s going to take the edge off,” said Eagles’ head coach Jay McPherson. “We were definitely in a hostile environment. I think we’ve prepared them as well as we can.”
4-A boys, 1-A girls open play Tuesday
Eastern Regional semifinal play begins today with 4-A boys and 1-A girls action.
Second-seeded Broughton (25-5) and Hillside (21-7) kick it off for the boys at the coliseum before No. 1 Clayton (28-2) takes on Fayetteville Seventy-First (27-2).
Play for 1-A boys and 4-A girls continues Wednesday and the 2-A boys and 3-A girls play Thursday. The 3-A boys and 2-A girls wrap up the round Friday.
Hicks highlights list of top prospects
Recently named McDonald’s All-American and North Carolina recruit Isaiah Hicks of Webb is the most highly-touted player at the regional.
The 3-A boys regional features one other Division I recruit, West Craven’s Josh Cuthbertson. The future USC Upstate Spartan averages a whopping 29.4 points per game.
Broughton has a pair of notable guards in Appalachian State recruit Devonte Graham and junior Cameron Gottfried, son of N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried.
Clayton’s Gary Clark has multiple Division I offers. The 6-foot-7 junior forward is averaging 24.8 points a game.
Kinston wing Brandon Ingram and Fairmont guard Kwinton Hinson are two of the top sophomores in the state, according to Rivals.com and in 1-A, Rocky Mount Prep’s Deshawn Freeman has a scholarship offer from VCU among a host of other schools, according to ESPN.com.
Millbrook’s Briana Day is a Syracuse recruit and West Craven junior guard Jamie Cherry is committed to North Carolina.
3-A Boys Eastern Regional
No. 1 Rocky Mount (25-2)
— Head coach: Michael Gainey, 15th year
— Co-Big East Conference champion with Wilson Hunt
— 13-game win streak
— Losses: Wilson Hunt, Northside Christian Academy (2013 N.C. Independent School Athletic Association 2-A state champion)
— 2010, 2013 3-A state champion
— Leading scorers: Big East Player of the Year Dante Battle (18.8), Michael Gainey, Jr. (12.1)
No. 3 West Craven (25-4)
— Head coach: Bryan Goehring, 5th year
— Coastal Conference champion
— 18-game win streak
— Losses: Wilmington Ashley, Kinston (2), Southern Wayne
— Leading scorers: Coastal Player of the Year Josh Cuthbertson (29.4), Demetres Abrams (18.6)
No. 3 Eastern Alamance (25-5)
— Head coach: Jay McPherson, 3rd year
— Mid-State Conference champion
— 16-game win streak
— Losses: Graham, Southern Alamance, Western Alamance, George Washington (Danville, Va.), Burlington Cummings
— Leading scorers: Mid-State Player of the Year Lamont Robinson (21.3), Kedar Sweezer (9)
No. 4 J.F. Webb (24-5)
— Head coach: Leo Brunelli, 7th year
— Co-Carolina Conference champion with Chapel Hill
— Losses: Shiloh High School (Snellville, Ga.), Word of God Christian Academy, High Point Christian Academy, Chapel Hill (2)
— Leading scorers: McDonald’s All-American/Carolina Conference Player of the Year Isaiah Hicks (20), Mitron Terry (13)
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