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Getting in the groove

Knights thunder past Cyclones in Greenfield Christmas Tournament opener

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The Greenfield School varsity boys basketball team unleashed an offense that lit up the scoreboard for 90 points, and so dominated that the lead reached 40 points in the opening minute of the second half and prompted a contiuous clock for the final 15 minutes.

But a non-scoring play in the opening seconds especially appealed to veteran Knights head coach Rob Salter in his team’s 90-53 conquest of city rival Community Christian in the quarterfinals of the annual Greenfield Christmas Tournament on Thursday night.

On an inbounds play, the Knights double-teamed junior Cyclones ball-handler Jimmy Forte, got a steal and converted it into a score.

“That got us going,” Salter declared.

Greenfield, the defending champion, soared to its 11th win against two losses and advanced into Friday night’s 7:30 semifinal against Crossroads Christian of Henderson — a 69-51 victor against Pope John Paul of Greenville.

The 6 p.m. “big man” semifinal sends Cape Fear Academy against Fayetteville Academy. Cape Fear shelled Neuse Christian of Raleigh, 60-24, and Fayetteville crushed St. David’s School of Raleigh, 74-43.

Community Christian, with an opportunity for a statement win after dropping a competitive decision to Greenfield at the season’s outset, dropped to 7-5 and, in Friday evening’s 4:30 consolation contest, opposes Pope John Paul.

“It’s great to have everybody back,” Salter said of Greenfield’s first action in 10 days. We really pushed the tempo and pressured the ball. We came out and played really hard; I really liked our energy. After exams, it was good to have everybody back. Our Christmas tournament is a fun time.”

The Cyclones played Greenfield even the first two minutes, twice leading. But CCS rattled against pressure on inbounds plays and got blitzed by seven Greenfield 3-pointers in the first quarter. The high-scoring Forte, averaging 32.5 points per game, failed to score in the opening quarter.

From the 4-4 tie, the Knights responded with a 15-0 tear behind the 3-point bombing of juniors Creighton Lebo and Jordan Lynch. After a free throw from the Cyclones’ Michael Piccolo, Greenfield answered with the next nine points. CCS was without a field goal the last six minutes of the opening quarter.

Despite the efforts of Forte and 6-foot-7 freshman Eric Wynn, CCS drew no closer than 20 points and the Knights’ first-half lead crested at 65-28 on a 3-pointer from 6-5 junior Jacari Outlaw.

“We tried to press them the first game,” Lebo noted, “but we got into foul trouble and kind of backed off. Today, we put it to them. We were doubling (Forte) off the ball screen and doubling off the first pass. We really looked good in (the press) tonight.”

First-year head coach Kenneth Atkinson said his Cyclones turned to individual play and were not getting back on defense. Atkinson sensed his squad was emotionlly spent by intermission.

“Not covering the corners on the three killed us,” Atkinson expressed. “Turnovers killed us. Against the press, we were not working together to get the ball up the court. We were standing still and the open man wasn’t coming to the ball. We know what they’re doing.

“We did play a lot better the second half, but we were still not getting back on defense. Turnovers have been our biggest problem all season.”

Atkinson cited the absence of Jeremiah Williams, whom he describes as CCS’ top rebounder and defender as well as a leader. Williams played in the first meeting between the teams.

Greenfield’s lead, in the third quarter, reached 51-19 on senior Bryson Baker’s basket and was the largest at 90-48 on a free throw from sophomore Justin Holland.

Lebo sparkled with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Outlaw stuffed in 19 points, Lynch 16 and junior Colin Guilford, sidelined for two weeks with a concussion, 10 in his return. Junior Dji Bailey handed out seven assists. The Knights amassed 36 rebounds and 18 steals.

“We know we can score,” Salter contended, “and, tonight, we started making shots. Creighton was in great rhythm and Jordan got us going. Our transition was really good.”

Added Lebo: “They (13 3-pointers) were going in and, when one goes, the next one usually does. Everybody was getting good shots and open looks. We all had a good game. It was pretty basketball.”

Forte poured in 28 points the last three quarters to lead CCS. He failed miserably on a few showtime tries, but got it right with a thunderous dunk to end the night’s scoring.

“Hats off to Greenfield,” Atkinson commented, “They are an awesome team. But we are a lot better than we showed tonight.”

COMMUNITY CHRISTIAN (53)

Jo. Williams 4, Lane, Manning 2, Forte 28, McFarland 3, Piccolo 6, Wynn 4, Egerton 6, Fate.

GREENFIELD (90)

Baker 9, Outlaw 19, Pittman 3, Lebo 21, Bailey 5, Guilford 10, Lynch 16, Sessoms 2, Foster 4, Holland 1, Johnson.

Score by quarters:

CCS 6 22 14 11 53

Greenfield 32 33 16 9 90

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