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There’s far too much of the season left to bring up the “c-word” to the Greenfield School varsity boys basketball team, but the Knights are certainly playing of late like a team that is focused on winning a championship — as in the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A championship that eluded them last year.
Less than 24 hours after surviving a double-overtime thriller at 1-A Coastal Plains Independents Conference archrival Wayne Country Day, Greenfield went back to work Saturday afternoon against a pretty good West Carteret team from the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s 3-A Coastal Conference. The Knights sawed up the Patriots, who had won 13 of 14 coming in, with solid passing, accurate shooting and hustling defense as they pulled away to an 80-55 victory, their 11th straight.
“We knew it was going to be a big game,” said junior guard Creighton Lebo, who led the Knights with 19 points and 10 rebounds. “We knew they were going to be good so we got up before the game and everybody was ready to go. We were focused. Last night we came out a bit lackadaisical and didn’t get into it, so tonight we knew we had to do our thing.”
The Knights, now 21-4, were workmanlike in doing their thing, making 45.7 percent (27 of 59) of their shots from the floor and committing just 10 turnovers. West Carteret, by contrast, struggled to get its shots to fall, from the field (19 of 59) and the free-throw line where the Patriots made just 11 of 29 (37.9 percent).
“Which is unusual because we usually shoot free throws pretty well,” West Carteret head coach Craig McClanahan said. “I don’t know — a long ride — I don’t know. There’s multiple reasons but the difference in the game really was their shot-making and our inability to shoot shots and free throws. I thought we competed in the second half. We could have given up and gotten beat by 30 or 40 points but we competed.”
Greenfield got a big 3-pointer from sophomore Justin Holland, who usually plays on the junior varsity squad, to take a 19-12 lead with 31 seconds left in the first quarter. Then, over the first three minutes of the second quarter, Lebo found Jahmi Foster inside for an easy bucket before Jordan Lynch dumped the ball to junior Trey Pittman for two of his 18 points. Pittman then got a layup after one of the Patriots’ 10 first-half turnovers and Lebo buried the second of his three 3-pointers and, just like that, Greenfield was up 28-15.
“I thought we were pretty unselfish and we attacked the gaps,” Greenfield head coach Rob Salter said. “Trey got us going, too, by making some open shots and I think it kind of leaked to the rest of the team.”
It didn’t help the Patriots that they went 1 of 8 from the floor in the second quarter and missed 6 of 7 free-throw attempts during the time that Greenfield was pulling away. But the Knights also made it tough on West Carteret, McClanahan said.
“We had some silly turnovers,” the Patriots head coach said. “They do a good job. We were trying to run our press break and they’re sitting there hedging on the pass and they knocked six of those away. So we’ve got to do a better job of recognizing that. That’s the first team that’s really tried to take our break away.”
Lebo said the focus was on West Carteret junior point guard Jason Williams.
“We knew the point guard was really the guy they ran through, so we just had to lock him up and not let him facilitate,” Lebo said.
Jones still managed to score a game-high 21 points.
Junior Jacari Outlaw added 11 points for the Knights, who have another three-game week ahead of them, starting Monday against Neuse Christian of Raleigh as part of Greenfield’s MLK Day Classic lineup.
It’s another chance to get better and tighter and more focused on that ultimate goal.
“The chemistry’s good,” Lebo said. “If we have a problem or anything, we’ll talk about it. We handle everything and we all believe in one another and know what each of us can do. It can be anybody going for 30 on any night. We know we can all score so it’s just about giving it up for the team.”
WEST CARTERET (55)
Barr 6, J. Jones 2, Gilliken 1, D. Jones 13, Schwartz, Jo. Williams 2, Ja. Williams 21, Wilcox 3, Moore 3, M. Jones 4, Kenon.
Guilford 9, Lynch 7, Outlaw 11, Baker 4, Holland 8, Pittman 18, Lebo 19, Wooard, Sessoms 1, Foster 3.
Score by quarters:
West Carteret 13 6 17 19 — 55
Greenfield 18 19 24 19 — 80