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Dealing with the reigning North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2-A champions on a level playing field before tipoff is difficult enough.
But two points down? The Beddingfield High varsity boys basketball team did itself no favors with the first adjudication of Tuesday’s home 2-A Eastern Plains Conference game with Farmville Central.
Before the opening tip, the Bruins were assessed a technical foul for stuffing the basketball during warmups. Farmville Central, not requiring the assistance, stormed out to a 16-2 opening and held Beddingfield at bay after the first quarter en route to a 92-70 victory.
Beddingfield slipped back below the .500 mark, moving to 8-9 overall and ending the first half of its EPC schedule at 2-3. Farmville Central, ranked No. 1 among North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2-A teams by Maxpreps.com, now stands 17-2 and 5-0 in conference play.
The Bruins, behind the efforts of senior Avery Huggins, didn’t fall completely off the radar following Farmville Central’s strong start. Huggins threw down an alley-oop — one of several dunks the senior added to his collection during Tuesday’s game — to put the Bruins on the board, and a three-point play by senior Jatavis Highsmith spurred by a goaltending call allowed Beddingfield to pull within four at 16-12. However, the Jaguars closed the opening quarter on a 6-0 spurt — including Samage Teel’s runner at the buzzer — to take a 22-12 lead into the second quarter. Beddingfield, despite occasional highlights to please its home crowd, never got closer than eight the rest of the way.
“I told the guys regardless of the score, let’s come out and play hard for 32 minutes, and I thought they did that,” Beddingfield head coach Jeremy Howard said. “That’s quite the task to try to tackle there, and no one’s been able to tackle it in the state of North Carolina except for Millbrook, and there’s a reason for that. State champions, and they’ve got the pedigree to do it again, for sure.”
Huggins tallied a double-double of 25 points and 11 rebounds, adding seven blocks in the process for Beddingfield. Junior Raekwon Batts, continuing his ability to get to advantageous positions on the floor to receive passes, had 14 points and Highsmith tallied 11 to go along with seven assists.
However, the Farmville Central backcourt of Justin Wright, a North Carolina Central commit and Terquavion Smith, an N.C. State pledge, pushed the basketball and made Beddingfield pay for empty possessions. Wright had 22, while Smith poured in 19.
In the second quarter, the Bruins briefly brought the margin within single digits. Trailing by 15, Huggins finished an alley-oop from senior Nathan Coley and junior Kaleb Harris authored a putback. Huggins knocked down a 3-pointer to bring the hosts within 29-21, but the Jaguars struck quickly with an 8-0 spurt to push the lead back out. Dantavious Short and Wright had back-to-back 3-pointers, and Samage Teel’s layup forced the Bruins into a 30-second timeout trailing 37-21.
“I challenged them to come out hungry,” Farmville Central head coach Larry Williford said. “I thought the first eight minutes, we were hungry. I thought we played with energy and purpose, and we took the fight to them. We didn’t have to be kicked to play hard to start the game, and I was proud of them for doing that.”
From a dunking perspective, the highlight of the night arguably belong to Huggins. With time winding down in the fourth, Huggins took the ball from the right side of the paint and threw it off the backboard to himself. The result was a crowd-pleasing one-hand slam that left some Beddingfield gym denizens sprawled on the ground in disbelief — despite the final margin.
“When I realized we weren’t coming back, you’ve just got to have fun with it sometimes,” Huggins said.
The Bruins trailed by as many as 28 points and now face a three-game stretch with North Johnston, North Pitt and Nash Central that will go a long way toward determining the Bruins’ wild-card fate. With Farmville Central and SouthWest in command of the automatic qualifier positions out of the EPC, boosting the Adjusted MaxPreps ranking becomes a priority.
“I told them these next three games are huge,” Howard said. “We’ve got North Johnston at home, North Pitt on the road and Nash Central back at home. Right now, we’re projected out of the playoffs, so we’ve got to have these three.”
FARMVILLE CENT. (92)
Smith 19, D. Short 11, Owens 7, Wright 22, Foskey 2, Teel 9, Suggs 4, J. Short 2, Moye 13, Jernigan, Cox, Harris 2.
Huggins 25, Highsmith 11, Edwards 2, C. Williams 5, Coley 7, Hutcherson, O. Williams, Harris 6, Davis, Batts 14.
Score by quarters:
Farmville Central 22 31 20 19 — 92
Beddingfield 12 25 15 18 — 70