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The only high school playoff basketball to be found in Wilson County on Thursday night will be at Hunt, where the No. 8-seed Warriors will host the 24th-seeded Rocky Mount boys, a fellow 3-A Big East Conference school, in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A second round.
The familiarity of opponents for Times readership-area schools in round 2 pretty much ends there. The opening round of the NCHSAA playoffs Tuesday night swept up six area programs with big postseason aspirations, but the seasons of five area teams continue into the second round, mostly on the road and with brand-new opponents.
Aside from the Warriors, whose good standing keeps them in the comfort of a home court against a familiar opponent for a 7 p.m. tipoff, the chance to move on comes with plenty of unknowns for the other four.
The Wilson Prep boys and Beddingfield girls will travel southeast for road tests in Carteret County after narrowly escaping first-round opponents. Both are slated for 7 p.m. tipoff. The Tigers, seeded 19th in their first season in the NCHSAA 1-A playoffs, will face a tough test at No. 3 seded East Carteret after advancing past Durham Voyager Academy on a buzzer-beater.
The No. 11 Lady Bruins, who withstood a three-point scare by Climax Providence Grove, will play sixth-seeded Newport Croatan in the 2-A girls bracket.
In the 3-A girls playoffs, No. 10 Hunt will make the trip to Johnston County to challenge No. 7 Clayton, while No. 25 Southern Nash lives to fight another day at No. 9 Southern Durham. Both games will begin at 6 p.m.
In the hunt
Assuming past results this season between Hunt and Rocky Mount hold any water for a third matchup, the Warriors, regular-season champions of the Big East, hold an upperhand against the Gryphons, who finished in a tie for second along with Northern Nash.
Aside from the honor of playing at home, the Dwight Taylor-led program (17-8) has a pair of victories over Rocky Mount (13-11) under its belt this season — a seven-point win early on in conference play and another 12-point dismisal at the end of January.
Defense proved to be a winning strategy for Hunt on Tuesday night against C.B. Aycock, and the Warriors have yet to be oustscored by the Gryphons in any quarter this season.
But this time around will be different too for the Warriors.
Rocky Mount is coming off an 80-73 upset of ninth-seeded Southern Lee, when the team compiled one of its highest point totals of the season. In that win, Jahsun Ward scored a team-high 24 points.
Offensively, Hunt sophomore scorer Ty’Chaun Clay has reached his highest against the Gryphons. Clay had his best game of the season, 29 points, against Rocky Mount earlier in the season and Tuesday against the Golden Falcons, he scored 25.
After a first-round win, Beddingfield girls head coach Debra Pegram didn’t know much about Croatan, but the impression she had of her team’s upcoming opponent is a quick and small lineup that relentlessly presses defensively.
This style is one diametrically opposed to what the Lady Bruins, runner-ups from the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference, do best.
Beddingfield (18-7) will be challenged by the Cougars (24-2), unblemished champions of the 1/A/2-A Coastal 8 Conference, but the Lady Bruins faced a program fitting a similar description in Climax Providence Grove Tuesday night and moved on.
The effectiveness of how Beddingfield handled a team driven by quickness on both ends of the court was in flux on Tuesday night, but ultimately Beddingfield survived it with 6-foot-4 senior Makayla Everette as the antidote. Pegram said “feeding” Everette, who scored 33 points in the playoff victory, would be a key part of the game plan once again, as it has been all season. Other players, like freshman Daneesha Briggs, will be poised to step up again along with her.
Smaller teams this season have found few answers for the senior leader of Everette, who towers over most players she has shared the court with this season.
But one style will win out over the other, and with a lead built in part by Everette falling apart late earlier this week, small-ball certainly could prove to be the winning strategy.
A last-second heave by Wilson Prep’s Adrian Land from near midcourt stunned Durham Voyager Academy on Tuesday, which was the second-place team coming out of a tough 1-A North Central Athletic Conference and led by 15 at one point late in the first round.
The Tigers (18-7), who finished third in the 1-A Tar Roanoka Conference, face an even better foe this time around in East Carteret, which locked in the third seed in the East Region after 17-consecutive victories headed into Thursday.
The Mariners boast some height in their lineup, including 6-foot-3 leading scorer Tyler Williford, who has averaged 25.3 points per game and 9.1 rebounds per game this season.
It’s unclear how the towering and sharp-shooting lineup of Wilson Prep might match up against East Carteret, but one thing is for sure: Wilson Prep’s first season in the NCHSAA playoffs hasn’t lacked in excitement or drama.
experience vs. youth
A matchup of the Hunt girls basketball team (18-7) at Clayton on Thursday will be a battle of seniors against a team led by an up-and-comer.
The Comets (21-4), who claimed a share the 3-A Greater Neuse River Conference title with East Wake, are driven by freshman Darionna Howard, who is averaging 14.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.6 steals per game, team highs in each category.
Clayton, winner of its last five, has not often been challenged this season, but Hunt seniors Imani Sutton, Bria Griffith and company could certainly do so.
Both players have eclipsed the 1,000 career point threshold this season and have at times traded turns charging the offense forward. An experienced lineup centered around them could send Hunt to the third round for the second-straight season.
Against Big East Conference foe Franklinton on Tuesday night, Sutton powered the Lady Warriors (18-7) past Big East Conference foe Franklinton.
The Comets have had a more consistent run this season, but it’ll take a complete performance for either school to clearly outduel the other.
The spoils of a 45-43 upset of No. 8 Union Pines has given the 25th-seeded Southern Nash girls basketball team another tough opponent in No. 9 Southern Durham (20-6) on Thursday.
The Ladybirds, who finished fourth in the Big East, will be tasked with taking down a program that finished a close second in the 3-A Big Eight Conference and has played some of its best basketball as of late, winning eight-straight.
Half of the Spartans’ six losses this season came in the first seven games of the season. Since then, Southern Durham has dropped three games, two to Pittsboro Northwood and one to Durham Hillside — and both opponents are playoff teams that made it to the second round.
Southern Nash received a big contribution of 15 points from freshman Jermia Walker in the first round, but the program will have to put points up in a hurry this time around.