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SHALLOTTE—The West Brunswick High School boys’ basketball team may not have a better opportunity to win a Mideastern 3A/4A Conference game than it had Friday night.
The Trojans never led against the visiting Ashley Screaming Eagles, but they had numerous chances after recovering from an early double-digit deficit.
West Brunswick cut an 11-point Ashley lead to two points on four separate occasions in the second and third quarters and only trailed by three with less than a minute remaining in the game.
But the Eagles, behind 20 points from forward Ajay Singh, escaped the WBHS gymnasium with a 48-44 win.
“I really felt like we were going to be able to steal it at the end,” said West Brunswick coach Brad Lewis.
The game was there for the taking, but the Trojans did not play well enough at the offensive end.
“Scoring has been and is going to be hard. Some nights we score and some nights we don’t,” Lewis said.
“I think we finally started scoring toward the end of the game. Some shots started falling. I felt like the defense was good all night.”
Jim Stewart, a senior forward, had 14 points to pace the Trojans (0-3 conference, 4-9 overall). Junior guard Pat Kamfolt added 10 points and junior guard Wally Kamfolt had nine.
Lewis said he was glad to see the hard-working Stewart have a good game at both ends of the court.
“He finished some tough shots and played with confidence. That’s good for him because he’s been missing some and struggling a little bit,” Lewis said.
“He always plays as hard as he can. He played great defensively tonight and hit some shots too. He really kept us in it until some outside shots started falling.”
Ashley scored nine of the game’s first 11 points and led 11-4 at the end of the first quarter.
The Eagles (1-2 conference, 5-8 overall) were ahead by as many as 11 points in the second period before the Trojans made a run.
Pat Kamfolt drove for a layup, Wally Kamfolt followed with a three-pointer and fastbreak bucket and Stewart banked in a jumper as West Brunswick cut the deficit to 20-18 late in the second quarter.
The Trojans trailed by three points at halftime and cut it to two on three occasions in the third quarter. Singh’s deep three-pointer at the buzzer gave the Eagles a 33-28 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
West Brunswick trailed 44-37 with 2 minutes remaining, but Pat Kamfolt hit a three-pointer and Stewart made a layup to cut Ashley’s advantage to 45-42 with 1:22 to play.
On its next possession, Ashley worked the ball inside to Singh, who scored a big basket with 45 seconds left.
West Brunswick missed its next two shots, and Xavier James made a free throw for Ashley with 12 seconds left to make it 48-42.
Stewart had a tip-in with 2 seconds left to finish off the scoring.
West Brunswick was in foul trouble almost from the start of the game. The Trojans were whistled for 15 first-half fouls, including three each by Garrett Sanders, Davonsha Vaught, Alfy Hill and Brian Gore. Hill picked up his third foul with 2:50 left in the first quarter.
For the game, officials called 28 fouls against West Brunswick and 12 against Ashley. The Eagles held a 16-1 advantage in free throws made.
Lewis said the foul trouble affected his substitution pattern.
“It seemed like any time somebody would get in a rhythm they’d be in foul trouble,” he said. “We had to be very cautious about who to play when. But everybody that went in because of foul trouble did a decent job when they were in there.”
West Brunswick junior guard Mookie Bethea was dismissed from the team the day before the Ashley game.
Lewis said Bethea did not show up for any of the team’s holiday tournament games and did not notify him ahead of time.
“At this point it’s in the best interest of the team to go on,” Lewis said. “Obviously, it’s a loss talent-wise, but other players have to step up.”
West Brunswick had a home game scheduled Tuesday against Laney and will travel to Jacksonville on Friday.
The Trojans are idle next week because of final exams and will return to the court Jan. 22 with a home game against defending state 4A champion New Hanover.
Ashley 11 10 12 15—48
W. Brun. 4 14 10 16—44
Ashley scoring: Singh 20, Farias 7, Bonsignore 5, Caldwell 4, James 3, Tarasco 3, Keys 3, Clark 3.
West Brunswick scoring: Stewart 14, P. Kamfolt 10, W. Kamfolt 9, Vaught 5, Jackson 2, A. Hill 2.