Long arm of Isaiah Hicks leads Webb into 1st state title game
A late-game surge by McDonald’s All-American Isaiah Hicks powered No. 4 seed Webb past defending state champion Rocky Mount Saturday night and into the Warriors’ first state 3-A championship game.
Webb beat the top-seeded Gryphons 68-64 for the 3-A Eastern Regional championship at Crown Coliseum.
Webb will meet Western Regional champion Statesville for the state 3-A championship at 7:30 p.m. March 16 at N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum.
Hicks, at North Carolina signee, scored 22 points and blocked five Gryphon shots.
“We’ve worked all season for this,” the 6-foot-9 Hicks said. “Just to go to states for the first time in Webb history is a good thing, especially with your brothers.”
Hicks was referring to the five teammates who joined him and Webb coach Leo Brunelli for postgame interviews.
During the Eastern Regional games, only two players and a coach from each team had been allowed into the media room, but Brunelli wasn’t having that after what his team accomplished. Too many Warriors had just done too much to have only two of them speak for the team, Brunelli said.
“Fine me,” Brunelli quipped. “Whatever you need to do.”
Hicks was named the most valuable player of the Eastern Regional, but three first-half fouls put him on the bench.
Brunelli said he told Hicks to keep playing hard but smarter.
“I like him playing athletically,” Brunelli said. “The game was very physical, both ends of the court. He got caught on the wrong side a couple of times.
“But think about that run we went on with a McDonald’s All-American sitting on the bench cheering for everyone, and that’s not a slight to Isaiah. He knew his role right there was to lead from the sideline.”
The game was tied at 54 with 7:08 to play. Hicks hit a little jumper to give Webb a two-point lead.
Danté Battle (27 points, 11 rebounds) was a problem for Webb, cutting the Warriors’ lead to two with 1:03 left in the game.
Webb went into a stall game but wound up losing the ball after getting whistled for traveling.
Rocky Mount guard Mason Hines crossed midcourt with 25 seconds left. He drove to the rim and had a pretty clean look at a potential layup until the long arm of Isaiah Hicks showed up.
Rocky Mount coach Michael Gainey wasn’t too sure about Hicks’ block.
“I think they need to start looking at the measurement of the goal, because there’s a cylinder up there that you’re not supposed to be reaching over,” Gainey said. “But, hey, he’s been doing it all year; ain’t no need to start calling it because Rocky Mount’s in the house.
“Being 6-9, when a ball’s up there over the top of the rim getting ready to go in, you’re not supposed to touch it. But, hey, I’m not officiating the game. I’m on the sideline looking. They’ve got a better look than I have.”
The Warriors ended up getting to the foul line to seal the game with free throws.
“I didn’t want to lose,” Hicks said. “We didn’t work this hard just to lose. Something just kicked in in me and just made me do this.”
Something got into Webb point guard Devonté Williams. He was the smallest player on the court, but his 18 points were large and helped him earn a spot on the all-regional team.
Rocky Mount’s game plan was to allow Hicks to do what he does and keep the rest of the Warriors from going off, Gainey said.
“Isaiah is going to get his,” Gainey said. “Great ballplayer. We’re not worried about him. Let him get his. (He’s a) McDonald’s All-American for a reason.”
Williams hit some big shots that knocked back Rocky Mount, Gainey said.
“But we still had our chances,” Gainey said.
Rocky Mount had a particularly rowdy fan who heckled Hicks with taunts that suggested that the Warriors’ main man needed to be headed to UNC Greensboro, not UNC Chapel Hill.
Battle was tasked with guarding Hicks.
“It felt regular to me,” Battle said. “He’s just another person to me. Just another guy to guard. Knowing he’s a McDonald’s All-American just made me want to play harder, made we want go at him like he’s going to go at me so one day I might can be an All-American.”
NCHSAA 3-A Eastern Regional Championship Game
Oxford Webb 68, Rocky Mount 64
OXFORD WEBB — Tyrek Beverly 2-6 2-2 8; Isaiah Hicks 6-11 10-10 22; Mitron Terry 4-8 1-1 9; Devonté Williams 6-14 2-2 18; Stefan Cates 2-10 3-5 8; Mack Lyon 0-0 0-0 0; Tyler Thomas 0-2 2-2 2; Tobiah Lewis 0-0 0-0 0; Bryan Smith 0-2 1-2 3. Team totals—FG 20-53 (37.7 percent), FT 21-24 (87.5 percent), 3-point FG 7-24 (29.2 percent).
ROCKY MOUNT — Mason Hines 1-2 0-0 2; Michael Hines 1-5 2-2 4; Immanuel King 2-7 0-0 4; Michael Gainey Jr. 8-18 0-1 19; Danté Battle 9-16 8-12 27; Broderick Caudle 2-7 1-2 6; Ahmad Harrel 1-1 0-0 2; Jaquell Bryant 0-0 0-2 0; Austin Warner 0-0 0-0 0. Team totals—FG 24-56 (42.9 percent), FT 11-19 (57.9 percent), 3-point FG 5-14 (35.7 percent)
Oxford Webb 11 20 19 18—68
Rocky Mount 21 14 19 10—64
3-point FG—Webb 7-24 (Williams 4-10, Beverly 2-6, Cates 1-6, Hicks 0-1, Thomas 0-1), Rocky Mount 5-14 (Gainey 3-8, Battle 1-3, Caudle 1-3). Rebounds—Webb 37 (Hicks 9), Rocky Mount 35 (Battle 11). Blocked shots—Webb 5 (Hicks 5), Rocky Mount 5 (Battle 4, Gainey 1). Assists—Webb 8 (Terry 3), Rocky Mount 12 (Battle 4). Steals—Webb 6 (Beverly 3), Rocky Mount 7 (Mason Hines 4). Turnovers—Webb 20 (Terry 8), Rocky Mount 19 (Mason Hines 5, Michael Hines 5).
Records—Oxford Webb 26-5, Rocky Mount 26-3.