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The West Brunswick boys’ basketball squad headed into the state playoffs holding onto hopes of a deep postseason run, but D.H. Conley dashed any chance of the Trojans advancing through the 3A bracket as the Vikings claimed a 62-53 victory Monday in the first round.
Trailing by 12 at halftime, West trimmed its deficit to five by the end of the third quarter, but Conley staved off a fourth-quarter rally as the visitors from Greenville connected on five-of-eight foul shots down the stretch to earn the nine-point triumph.
West Brunswick‘s third-year head coach Eric Davis, whose club advanced to the second round of the playoffs a year ago, said his team didn’t execute well enough late in the game to set a date in the second round.
“We took too many jump shots. We just didn’t execute like we needed to,” a dejected Davis said. “We had a chance, we just couldn’t get over the hump. They’re well-coached. They gave us a lot of trouble in the first half and we couldn’t quite recover.”
Despite the first-half struggles, Davis said he was proud of the way his team responded against a high-caliber opponent in a playoff atmosphere.
“No matter what the situation was, this group was going to fight until the end,” he said. “We had several games this year where we dug ourselves a hole, but we kept fighting. That’s our mentality. Our skill set has to get better. Our dribbling, passing and shooting has to get better.”
After senior guard Markel Jones forced a turnover and capitalized on two free throw attempts in the opening minutes of the final period, West found itself down 44-41, the closest the contest had been since Conley held a 6-3 lead in the opening frame.
D.H. Conley’s Josh Cox made sure the Trojans would get no closer. Cox scored eight points in three minutes to extend the Vikings’ lead to seven with just less than three minutes left.
Cox finished with a game-high 23 points. Jakeel Andrews also finished in double figures with 10. Peyton Ahlers netted seven, Kendrick Greene added six and Jordan Williams chipped in six for the representative of the 3A Coastal Conference.
The Trojans, who played without leading scorer Gray Cheers (illness), were paced by Jones (11 points). Junior Zaire Hankins and senior center Jawon McNeil each had 10.
Saadiq Johnson (seven), O.J. Hill (seven), Quentin Ash (four), Phil Gause (two) and Tony Clarida (two) were other scorers for West Brunswick.
As for the direction of the West Brunswick program, which finished the season with a 12-12 record, Davis remains optimistic.
“We just have to continue to get better,” he said. “Our entire program has to get better. We’ve done a good job of climbing the ladder. We don’t want to plateau. We want to keep getting better. We have to get in the gym and work. We have a strong JV program. We have to get bigger, faster and stronger and get better as a team.”