OXFORD — The past few weeks have not been kind to the J.F. Webb men’s basketball program.
After starting the year a solid 6-2, a series of tough opponents that included Southern Durham, Carrboro and Person caused J.F. Webb to drop seven straight games and forced head coach Alex Tharp to regroup ahead of the team’s final non-conference matchup on Wednesday.
“We feel like we’re getting back to where we should be,” Tharp said. “That was our best all-around game and we put everything together. We’re still not full-strength health-wise, but we are starting to roll now and we want to keep that momentum going the rest of the year.”
J.F. Webb dominated NCSSM for most of the game despite not having junior Markeevis Latta in the lineup, who was averaging 19.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 3.9 steals entering Wednesday’s contest.
Replacing Latta’s production was going to be a difficult task, but Tharp praised junior Cameron Wilkerson and senior Kolbe Jones for stepping up and playing significant minutes alongside Webb’s leading scorer, senior Javon Bullock.
Tharp had considered Jones to be a burgeoning piece of the J.F. Webb offense before Wednesday’s game, but he feels more relieved going forward knowing that Jones is more than capable of scoring 20 points in any game alongside Bullock and Latta.
Jones was ready to contribute for J.F. Webb once he knew that Latta would be unavailable against NCSSM. He was proud of the effort that everyone displayed on Wednesday and is optimistic that many similar games are ahead for the team over the next few weeks.
“I just had to grip [the ball] and go,” Jones said. “[Markeevis] was a player that we were going to miss, so I had to come out and play hard for the team. This is a big confidence-booster and it felt good to have such a great game.”
Tharp shared Jones’ outlook on the rest of the 2021-22 season, adding that defeating NCSSM reminded his players of their strengths and how they are capable of being competitive regardless of the opponent.
“This is a ‘monkey off our back’ type of win,” Tharp said. “We’re starting to believe that we can do this again. We knew we were playing good basketball, but the scoreboard wasn’t reflecting that. Now we’re starting to see our vision come back to us and we’re going to finish this season the right way.”
Tharp intends to use Wednesday’s win as motivation over the next few practices, as he expects the second half of the season to be both physically and mentally demanding with only conference matchups remaining on the regular-season schedule.
With a small margin of error to work with as the Warriors fight their way back into contention for the Northern Lakes Athletic Conference title, Tharp wants to see the positives from Wednesday become the recurring theme that helps take the program deep into the postseason.
“We have to keep attacking,” Tharp said. “The goal is to keep doing everything that we’re good at, which is to get to the rim and play hard. We’re going to play hard no matter what and that’s what we’re going to keep on doing.”
Following a tough home conference matchup against South Granville on Friday, J.F. Webb will host their local northern rivals in Vance County on Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m..
J.F. Webb scorers
Kolbe Jones 22, Javon Bullock 20, Cameron Wilkerson 14, Jayson Savoy 6, Jerman Johnson 4, Jamarri Williams 4, Malik Owens 3, Ikeem Hunt 2, Beau Burnette 2.