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The host Greenfield School varsity boys basketball team, in its gym Thursday night, wasted no time asserting its status as the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association’s top-seeded team in the 1-A playoffs.
The Knights, Coastal Plain Independents Conference regular-season and tournament champions, outscored Hobgood Academy 22-3 in the last six minutes of the first quarter and proceeded to an 85-33 triumph in the second-round test.
Coming off a first-round bye, Greenfield advanced into the quarterfinals for the 19th consecutive year, welcoming Henderson Crossroads Christian at 4 p.m. Saturday. Head coach Rob Salter’s squad also reached the 30-win plateau (four losses) for the third time in program history and for the first time since 2012. The single-season standard is 31 wins.
The Raiders from the Tarheel Independents Conference exited with a 22-6 record.
“They’ve had a great year,” Salter said of Hobgood. “They should be proud of what they have accomplished. And (head coach) Joe McDowell is a class act.”
But Hobgood was no match for the Knights’ height, speed, athleticism and sometimes-uncanny shooting.
Greenfield recorded 24 steals and, by halftime, had committed just three turnovers as compared to 20 for the Raiders. The Knights swished 23-of-35 shots from the floor in the first half, shot for a sizzling 75-percent (12 of 16) in the second quarter and wound up knocking down 36-of-62 attempts for 58-percent accuracy. Hobgood, which missed its first 10 shots of the final quarter, connected on 14-of-42 attempts for 33-percent accuracy.
“Our tempo bothered them,” Salter assessed. “Our speed bothered them. When defense leads to offense like it did tonight, we can be tough.”
“We are shooting the ball well and it has to stay that way. We did not shoot well early in the season, but we were shooting well in practice. I knew it was coming. After Christmas, we started making the right plays — and making shots.”
Leading 7-6 after two minutes, the Knights went on a 10-0 tear. After a Raiders 3-pointer, Greenfield finished the opening quarter with a 12-0 spree. Junior Creighton Lebo, the CPIC Player of the Year, and company drained 4-of-5 shots from 3-point range in the opening quarter.
The Knights wished their first seven shots of the second quarter — when Hobgood turned the ball over six of its first seven possessions. Greenfield canned the quarter’s first 14 points.
After a bucket from 6-foot-5 junior Jacari Outlaw staked the Knights to a 66-25 margin with four minutes, 55 seconds left in the third quarter, the scoreboard clock stopped only for time-outs.
“I hate it when the running clock starts,” commented junior Jordan Lynch, who came off the bench to net 11 points. “My role is to come in, give energy, play hard, score when I need to and play aggressive. I came out with a lot of energy, but I had to tone it down in the second half.
“We expected them to come out and play hard, and we had to match that. If we had been down on confidence, they would have probably been on fire. Then, it would have been a tough game.”
Greenfield enjoyed its biggest lead of 83-29 when 6-5 junior Trey Pittman slipped inside and scored.
The performance understandably pleased Salter.
“When you play teams that you overpower, you still want to do things that make you better,” Salter emphasized. “I like the way we talked, pushed the ball and were unselfish. We can take a lot away from that.”
Lebo’s 18 points led the Greenfield scoring. Pittman stuffed in 16. Salter commended junior Colin Guilford’s unselfishness and credited senior Bryson Baker for providing defensive spark.
Junior Maurice Betts’ 10 points paced Hobgood, while Alex Hanff, one of two seniors, managed nine points.
The exceptional level at which Greenfield is playing does not scare Lynch and his teammates, but he caustions: “I just hope we don’t break down at the wrong time. We’ve got to keep playing with confidence and keep playing together.”
Hanff 9, Speller 3, Betts 10, Lanier 3, Matthewson, Rogers 8, Elkins, Mullanax.
Guilford 7, Lebo 18, Pittman 16, Bailey 8, Outlaw 6, Baker 7, Lynch 11, Foster 6, Holland 4, Wiggs 2, Sessoms, Johnson, Woodard, Peters.
Score by quarters:
Hobgood 9 13 7 4 — 33
Greenfield 29 28 17 11 — 85