- Special Sections
- Public Notices
BOILING SPRING LAKES — The packed gymwent silent as Gray Cheers lay on his back on the floor for a few minutes.
West Brunswick’s leading scorer had been undercut while driving the baseline and landed hard on his head and elbow, and blood trickled from a knuckle on his shooting hand.
Teammates helped Cheers to his feet, the blood was cleaned off his hand, and he went on a tear scoring 21 points to lead West past South Brunswick 62-45 Wednesday night.
Six of those points came after Cougar Alec Groom’s foul and technical foul for kicking Cheers while they were entangled on the floor.
“Gray hit really hard,” West coach Eric Davis said. “He hit his elbow first and then his head.”
Cheers stepped to the foul line and missed the first free throw but swished the next three. West got the ball back because of the technical, and an undeterred Cheers drove the baseline again, sank the shot and made the free throw to score a total of six points in 34 seconds. It was the turning point of the game.
South had cut the lead to 13 points at 35-22 on Malik Douglas’ bucket, but Cheers’ half a dozen points pushed the lead to 41-22 four minutes after halftime, and South never came close again.
“It’s up to the officials to stop that right away,” South coach Scott Wainwright said of the behavior that led to the technical foul.
The technical marred what had otherwise been a hard-fought game between county rivals.
“There’s a reason West is having a good year,” Wainwright said. “I don’t think we played soft, and I don’t think we played scared. It was about West being good.”
The Trojans jumped out to a 17-11 lead in the first quarter.
“We were a little bit deeper than they were,” Davis said.
“We played everybody in the first quarter. So we started the second quarter with fresh legs.”
Fresh legs, good anticipation and quick hands led to consecutive steals by Trojans DeMaria Evans, Cheers and Saadiq Johnson, and O.J. Hill’s 3-pointer put West up 26-14 midway through the second quarter.
“Coach Davis does a good job of being 11 deep — their guys understand their roles,” Wainwright said. “Having Gray Cheers helps.”
After Cheers was double-fouled in the third quarter, Davis didn’t instruct his players to get the ball to Cheers. Apparently the coach didn’t have to. Teammates were looking for and getting the ball to Cheers on every offensive possession.
“I was open, and my teammates got me the ball,” Cheers said afterward. “We always play hard against South, and they always play hard, too.
We knew it was going to be a dogfight.”
The 21 points were not his season high. Cheers scored 36 against South Columbus this season.
He might have topped that if he had played the whole game against South, but Davis took out his starters in the last few minutes of every quarter and the last four minutes of the 32-minute game.
West took a 20-point lead at 52-32 with 5:58 left in the game after Cheers scored on an 8-footer from the baseline and a jump shot from the foul line, Tony Clarida’s two free throws and Johnson’s baseline drive.
South’s Caleb Stanley drained back-to-back 3-pointers with 2:30 left, but West had enough of a cushion to hold off a rally.
“Our defense was good until late when we gave up some uncontested 3s,” said Davis, who also lamented his team’s 19 turnovers for the game.
“It’s about being your best when you get to tournament time,” he said. “Our effort was really good, we played really hard and really tough. I’d still like for us to take care of the basketball better.”
Wainwright’s main disappointment was his team’s performance from the free throw line. The Cougars missed 9 of 22 foul shots.
“You’ve got to play well against teams that are better than you (to have a chance of winning),” Wainwright said. “We just ran into a team that played a little bit better than us.”
Dante Reid led the Cougars with 11 points. DeVante Pugh added eight points and made three blocks, including a spectacular one stopping a fast break just before halftime. Douglas also blocked three shots, and Austin Anderson and Reid excelled from beyond the arc with 3-pointers.
Cheers scored 21, Johnson 12 and Hill 10 for the winners, who went 19 of 27 from the foul line including 9 of 11 in the second half.
Zarie Hawkins grabbed seven rebounds, Cheers six and Shermonde Fulwood five.
The win keeps West in second place in the conference with a 6-2 record behind New Hanover, undefeated in league play. The Trojans are 13-4 overall.
W. Brunswick 17 11 16 18 — 62
S. Brunswick 11 9 7 18 — 45
WB: Cheers 21, Johnson 12, O.J. Hill 10, Tony Clarida 8, Evans 4, Jon Jordan 2, Nasir Murray 2, Alex Clarida 2, Fulwood 1.
SB: Reid 11, Pugh 8, Caleb Stanley 6, Douglas 6, Andre Moore 4, Jeffrey Bryant 3, Anderson 3, Trey Gilbert 2, Hunter French 2.
New Hanover 62
West Brunswick 53
SHALLOTTE — New Hanover remained unbeaten in the Mideastern Conference by beating West Brunswick 62-53 Friday, Feb. 7.
New Hanover, a class 4A team, is 18-2 overall. West, a class 3A team, dropped to 6-3 in the conference, 13-5 overall. The conference regular season ends this week.
For West, Cheers and Hankins each scored 12 points and Alex Clarida 11.
For New Hanover, 5-foot-7 senior guard Shawn Robinson scored 22 points, 12 of those in the fourth quarter, when New Hanover outscored the Trojans 29-18.
The game turned with 2:30 left in the fourth quarter. New Hanover led 43-41 and Cheers fouled Robinson on a missed layup. In disgust, Cheers slammed the padding on the wall and the referee called Cheers technical foul. New Hanover made two of the four free throws in taking a 45-41 lead. New Hanover made a turnover on its ensuing possession and West’s Saadiq Johnson scored a layup with 2:14 left.
After a timeout, Robinson scored a layup with 1:54 left. Ridell Camidge stole the inbounds pass, scored and was fouled. His free throw put New Hanover ahead 50-43 with 1:52 left.
In the final 1:52, New Hanover made 8-of-8 free throws as the Trojans never got closer than six points.
Other West scorers: O.J. Hill 3, Johnson 8, Tyquan Hill 6, Fulwood 1.
— Michael Paul
West Brunswick 58
The Trojans beat Topsail 58-23 Saturday, Feb. 8, at West and that victory clinched the No. 1 from the conference for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Class 3A state playoffs, which begin Feb. 24. West is 7-3 in the conference. Hankins scored 17 points.
— Michael Paul
West Brunswick beat South Brunswick 54-49 in the boys’ junior varsity game.
For West, Da’Quane Burgess scored 14 points and Josh Woodard 13. Other West scorers: Tariq Thomas 10, Caleb Suggs 3, Quinlyn Moore 5, Brien Hewett 6, Xavier Gause 6 and Antwan McKnight 5.
South’s top scorers were Quentin Reid (10) and Brandon Gonzalez (9).
— Michael Paul
Sarah Sue Ingram, a member of the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame board of directors, is a correspondent for the Beacon.