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JACKSONVILLE—Things could have gotten out of hand Friday night when the struggling West Brunswick High School boys’ basketball team hit the road to take on a state-ranked conference rival.
But the Trojans gave Class 3A No. 6 Jacksonville all it could handle for more than three quarters before the Cardinals pulled away late for a 67-52 victory at the Bird Cage.
West Brunswick coach Brad Lewis said he was disappointed with the outcome but pleased with his team’s performance.
“They’re top 10 in the state. I don’t think they played bad. I felt we played good,” Lewis said.
“We’re getting better. We’ve shown improvement in the last three or four games. It’s just that there are no moral victories. You’ve got to finish sooner or later or it kind of gets to you.”
Senior guard B.J. Middleton scored 10 of his game-high 24 points during a 2 -minute stretch early in the fourth quarter to help Jacksonville avoid the upset.
“Brad does a good job and they played hard. I’m not going to make any excuses,” said Jacksonville coach Mike Ark. “They took us out of some things we wanted to do, and we’ve got work to do.”
The Cardinals, who were coming off a two-point loss to defending state 4A champion New Hanover, improved to 3-1 in the Mideastern 3A/4A Conference and 13-2 overall.
Jeremy Hearst chipped in 12 points, Damien Williams added 10 and Curtis Brooks had nine for Jacksonville.
Leading scorers for West Brunswick (0-5 conference, 4-11 overall) were Alfy Hill with 14 points, Marcus Jackson with 12 and Jim Stewart with 10. The Trojans lost for the ninth time in their last 10 games.
West Brunswick held an 18-17 advantage at the end of a fast-paced first quarter that featured seven lead changes.
Middleton’s three-pointer in the first minute of the second period started a 15-4 run by the Cardinals. Hearst and Williams scored four points each during the spurt.
Hill had a tip-in, Jackson hit two free throws and Davonsha Vaught scored on a fastbreak to help the Trojans cut the deficit to 36-30 at halftime.
West Brunswick got as close as four points in the third quarter, but the Cardinals responded with a 7-2 spurt and held a 50-42 advantage at the end of the period.
On two occasions early in the fourth quarter, the Trojans closed the gap to five points. The last came on Stewart’s layup with 6:19 remaining.
A three-pointer by Middleton, his third of the game, started a game-ending 15-5 run by the Cardinals. The Trojans were held without a field goal over the final four minutes.
“They fought,” Lewis said of his players. “We were there in the fourth quarter and then all of a sudden I looked up and we were down 15.”
Ark said Middleton’s scoring was crucial on a night when the Cardinals did not get their usual inside production.
“B.J. is a senior and he’s been doing a good job,” Ark said. “They sat in that zone all night and took away a lot of our inside stuff, and he was able to make some threes and keep us in it.”
As well as West Brunswick played, Lewis said the Trojans failed to take advantage of opportunities. They shot 2-for-12 from three-point range and 4-for-12 from the free throw line.
“The first half was the best half we’ve played,” Lewis said. “I thought we passed the ball better than we’ve ever passed the ball probably in my four years (as head coach). We penetrated and kicked and got good shots.”
West Brunswick dressed 10 players and eight of them played most of the minutes. The Trojans appeared fatigued at times against the bigger Cardinals.
“They’re a lot deeper. They’re going five in, five out, and really I played eight guys,” Lewis said. “I’m sure fatigue was a factor, especially with the pace of the game and them trapping all over the place.
“We played a zone defense, but with their pressure we really had to push offensively with a lot of movement. I’m sure that played some role coming down the stretch, and then when you’re shots aren’t going and you are a little bit tired it’s easy to get heavy legs.”
West Brunswick does not have any games scheduled this week due to final exams. The Trojans will host New Hanover on Tuesday, Jan. 22.
W. Brun. 18 12 12 10—52
J’ville 17 19 14 17—67
West Brunswick scoring: A. Hill 14, Jackson 12, Stewart 10, P. Kamfolt 6, Vaught 5, Sanders 4, W. Kamfolt 1.
Jacksonville scoring: Middleton 24, Hearst 12, Williams 10, Brooks 9, Ward 5, Jones 3, Johnson 2, Shivers 2.
Boys Basketball Standings
Team Conf. All
New Hanover 4-0 14-2
Hoggard 4-0 11-5
Jacksonville 3-1 13-2
White Oak 2-2 4-12
Laney 1-3 8-6
Ashley 1-4 5-11
W. Brunswick 0-5 4-11