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With 6:07 remaining in Friday’s 2-A Eastern Plains Conference opener against North Pitt, Beddingfield High senior Avery Huggins, a 6-foot-5 senior, contemplated his next move on the wing.
Having already pummeled visiting North Pitt with a vicious barrage of dunks and alley-oops in the first half, the Panthers were more than happy to give him room in their box-and-1 approach. One need not guess who the target of the box-and-1 was.
But Huggins didn’t take it to the rim. He pulled up from 3-point range and knocked it down.
Life is unfair.
Indeed, Huggins was unfair to another opponent Friday night, finishing with 24 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks as the Bruins controlled the proceedings from tip to buzzer with a 75-46 victory.
Coming off a heartbreaking two-point loss at Tarboro on Wednesday, Beddingfield opened conference play and improved to 5-6. North Pitt, mired in a rebuilding season under the direction of first-year head coach Grant Smith, stumbled to 1-12.
Huggins literally bullied the Panthers into the box-and-1 defense early. After North Pitt led for the only time at 3-2, the senior opened his evening above the rim. Five of his six dunks in the first quarter were alley-oops as the Bruins raced to a 23-12 lead after one quarter. Senior guard Jatavis Highsmith had six assists and displayed a knack for getting the ball to Huggins running the baseline and demanding the ball be thrown to the rim.
Is Huggins even human in his final high school season?
“I think Avery is human sometimes,” Beddingfield head coach Jeremy Howard said. “But when he plays above the rim like that, I’m unsure. Whether he’s human or not, I’m glad he’s on my team. He makes me look a whole lot smarter than I really am.”
While his above-the-rim antics gave the Bruins a commanding lead the rest of the way, the move to the box-and-1 enabled his teammates to thrive in unselfish fashion. Senior Nathan Coley had four 3-pointers, while junior Kaleb Harris battled his way inside for 15 points.
Beddingfield’s lead mushroomed to as many as 31 in the closing stages as the Panthers welcomed back just two players with varsity experience to their 2019-20 roster. Thus, the Bruins feasted.
“Over the top, that’s a different animal,” Smith said of Huggins. “Just to be honest about it, his supporting cast knows that. So anytime they get it near the rim, they understand, put it up.”
Beddingfield now enters a winnable stretch of games against Smithfield-Selma, North Lenoir, North Johnston and Nash Central — and the opportunity to start a sizable streak.
Huggins acknowledged as much.
“We’ve got to get back on defense and rebound the ball better,” he said.
NORTH PITT (46)
Carroll 9, Coffey, 2, Harris 12, Duncan 10, Lee 11, Smith 2.
Huggins 24, Highsmith 5, Williams 7, Coley 12, O. Williams, Harris 15, Davis 2, Dove 2, Taylor 3, Batts 5.
Score by quarters:
North Pitt 12 10 11 13 — 46
Beddingfield 23 15 18 19 — 75