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Remaining upbeat is becoming increasingly difficult for a Hunt High varsity boys basketball team that was dealt its third consecutive loss at home in as many evenings by a 60-46 margin against East Wake on Thursday night.
And head coach Dwight Taylor and 6-foot-2 Shakei Hines, one of four seniors, were in definite agreement as to the solution — practice — for finding the winning formula.
“We just need a lot of practice,” expressed Taylor. “We should not have played the game (loss to South Johnston) on Monday night. We needed the practice. But, by Christmas time, we’ll be fine.”
Added Hines: “We haven’t had enough practice. What we need is a hard practice when we are all focused. We had a bad game Monday and that messed us up.”
Coming off Wednesday night’s loss to Eastern Wayne, Hunt of the 3-A Big East Conference never owned the lead against East Wake and fell to 2-4. East Wake, in avenging a loss on its court, improved to 3-1.
“It’s a good win,” assured East Wake head coach Gerald Melton. “We’re trying to figure out our defense and be more consistent. We’re learning, and it’s good to learn with a win.”
East Wake effectively mixed defenses and benefited from the inside trio of 6-foot-4 junior Jayvon Mercer, 6-3 sophomore Curtis Elerdy and 6-3 junior Zach Sloan against outsized Hunt.
With the lead in the final quarter, East Wake effectively valued the clock, limiting Hunt to three points.
“With about six minutes to go, we were not trying to stall,” Melton declared. “We were trying to run a couple of sets. But when it got down to two-three minutes and they had to foul us, it worked out perfect.
“A lot of these kids have been playing together for a good while. They have good basketball IQs and are very coachable. Sometimes, they try to do too much, but they do understand what we’re trying to do — and buy in.”
East Wake carried a 51-43 margin into the fourth quarter and, midway through the period, finally ran a set that saw Mercer respond with a three-point play that left East Wake out front 54-45 with 4:05 remaining.
Undersized Hunt managed numerous opportunities inside the final four minutes, but could not get a shot to drop.
“We’ve been hitting shots lately,” Hines noted, “but I guess we were off tonight.”
Mercer stuffed in 16 points to lead East Wake, while junior Jeremiah Crudup bucketed 15 and Sloan 11.
Hines emerged Hunt’s top scorer with 13 points, while senior Shaq Wade netted 10.
“I played pretty good the first half,” Hines assessed, “but I stopped shooting.”
The rematch was nip-and-tuck until East Wake spurted to a 38-32 halftime margin. The lead grew to 46-36 before Hunt drew as close as 48-43 on sophomore Tychaun Clay’s backward pass to sophomore C.J. Joyner with 39 seconds left in the third quarter.
Hunt came no closer the final eight minutes.
“This week has been really tough,” Taylor said with a sigh. “Their rebounding was a big difference tonight; they hit us on the boards early. They were a little more active inside and their guard play was a little better. No. 24 (Crudup) shot better than last time.
We’re trying to get a little big bigger (with the lineup), but we’re not in the right places at the right time.”
And the losses have come in threes.
“They hurt,” Hines lamented, “especially because they were home games.”
The next assignment is Tuesday at reigning North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2-A champion Farmville Central.
EAST WAKE (60)
Vick 4, Holman 2, Vick, Sloan 11, Mercer 16, Horton 5, Cappalletti, Elerdy 7, Crudup 15, Platts.
Clay 5, Wade 10, Taylor 4, Hines 13, Carmon 5, Hammonds, Jones 7, Joyner 2.
Score by quarters:
East Wake 17 21 13 9 — 60
Hunt 15 17 11 3 — 46