Webb boys make state title game debut
Statesville and Oxford Webb share one thing in common. Neither has a tradition of statewide success in boys’ basketball.
That will change for at least one of them tonight when the state’s top 3-A basketball programs — MaxPreps.com’s No. 1-ranked West champion Statesville (25-3) and No. 2-ranked East champion Oxford Webb (26-5) — will meet at N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum (7:30 p.m., Time-Warner Cable channel 520). The winner will be crowned state champion.
Tonight’s title game appearance will be the first in Webb history. Statesville’s been in the championship game once before — a 1985 loss before any of tonight’s competitors were born.
Both teams have stars, the brightest being Webb phenom Isaiah Hicks, a North Carolina signee who’s among the very best in the country according to every recruiting service out there.
At 6-foot-9 and with what sometimes appears to be the wingspan of a 747, Hicks poses problems teams can’t replicate in practice.
Defensively, he’s a shot-blocking machine. A double-digit blocks night is nothing out of the ordinary for the Warriors’ star. But his contributions go far beyond his shot blocking prowess in the low post. He’s a threat to top 30 points and 20 rebounds every time he steps on the floor, although his willingness to share the basketball with teammate perimeter stars including 6-3 wing Mitron Terry, 5-8 point guard Devonté Williams and 6-1 shooting guard Stefan Cates often keeps his scoring numbers in the high teens.
This is a team with glue guys, too. Junior forward Tyrek Beverly usually takes a back seat to his fellow starters in the scoring column, but does the dirty jobs on defense and the boards that make the engine purr. Ditto 6-3 senior post reserve Bryan Smith who averages a remarkable 13 rebounds a game backing up Hicks in the post but also seeing a lot of playing time alongside the big man.
Defensively, Hicks is obviously the main man, but ball pressure by the guards and backdoor help from Beverly is what keeps opposing teams struggling to get good looks at the basket.
A key for Webb tonight could be keeping Hicks out of foul trouble. With his propensity to swat shots, touch fouls can sometimes be a problem. Webb would certainly like tonight’s officials to “let the players play.” Terry also has encountered foul issues and would benefit as well.
Statesville has a very balanced attack that most recently featured 6-2 senior forward Josh Gaither. He scored 29 points in the West championship game and is the likely suspect to take the ball at Hicks, particularly early, in hopes of drawing fouls.
Gaither was a perfect 14 of 14 at the line in the West final.
JaQuan Warren, a 6-1 senior guard, leads Gaither in scoring average on the year, 16-13, and future Duke University football defensive back Breon Borders, a 6-1 senior forward, adds 12 points and eight rebounds a night. Low post starter Justin Daniels (6-2, senior) also pulls in eight boards a game. He’ll likely get help from Borders and Gaither when it comes to handling Hicks inside.
Running the Greyhounds’ high-octane offense — they’ve scored 80 or more points in 19 of their games this year — is point guard Marquis Willis, who averages eight assists a night.
NOTES — Tickets to tonight’s NCHSAA state championship games are $10 each and include admission to all four state championship games being played at Reynolds Coliseum. Tickets are available at the door. ... In addition to today’s 3-A girls’ (5 p.m.) and boys’ (7:30 p.m.) title games, Reynolds will host the 1-A girls’ championship at noon and 1-A boys’ championship at 2:30 p.m. ... The 2-A and 4-A girls’ and boys’ championships will be played at the Dean E. Smith Center at UNC Chapel Hill today ... The 2-A girls will play at noon, the 2-A boys at 2:30, the 4-A girls at 5 and the 4-A boys at 7:30. ... Area teams are not involved in any of today’s games except the 3-A doubleheader in Raleigh.
NCHSAA 3-A BOYS’ CHAMPIONSHIP ROSTERS OXFORD WEBB HIGH SCHOOL EAST CHAMPION (26-5)
Head Coach: Leo Brunelli ... Assistant Coaches: Everett Byrd and Cameron Davis ... Current win streak: 5 games ... Playoff wins (Rounds 1-5): Asheboro 82-47; Southern Wayne 83-53; Chapel Hill 57-41; Eastern Alamance 65-56; Rocky Mount 68-64. ... Previous state championship: None. ... Last championship game appearance: None. ... MaxPreps.com 3-A state ranking: No. 2 * Possible starters as listed by coaches.
STATESVILLE HIGH SCHOOL
WEST CHAMPION (25-3)
|44||Austin St. John||G||6-0||SR|
Head Coach: Sonny Schofield ... Assistant Coach: Chris Torrence ... Current win streak: 14 games ... Playoff wins (Rounds 1-5): Northwest Cabarrus 103-64; North Forsyth 93-63; Northeast Guilford 88-71; Harding 70-52; Hunter Huss 74-71. ... Previous state championship: None. ... Last championship game appearance: 1985. ... MaxPreps.com 3-A state ranking: No. 1. * Possible starters as listed by coaches.