RALEIGH — Something had to give at Athens Drive High School. Both the Jaguars and Fuquay-Varina have struggled this season, and both were searching for that elusive first victory.
A fast start and a strong defensive effort made sure the Bengals were the ones that finally got a check in the win column on Thursday. After opening up a 21-10 first-quarter lead, Fuquay cruised to a 49-36 win over Athens Drive (0-10, 0-5 Tri-9). It snapped a 24-game conference losing streak.
“This is the first game this year that we’ve come close to playing a complete game,” Bengals coach Randy Barrow said. “The guys are learning, listening and understanding more of what we’re trying to accomplish. It showed tonight.”
Fuquay (1-8, 1-5) got off to a quick start on the offensive end behind a solid shooting effort from Michael Verian. The senior guard knocked a couple of early 3s and was instrumental in helping the Bengals mount that double-digit lead.
“It’s great to finally have all our hard work pay off,” Verian said. “We played together as a team tonight.”
From the second quarter on, both teams stalled a bit on offense. The Jags’ shooting woes from the first quarter continued, and Fuquay made sure each possession was one shot and done.
Dedric Byrd was a monster on the boards, always seemingly in good position around the basket. The junior forward finished the night with 12 rebounds, eight in the first half alone.
“We spend a lot of time working on rebounding and positioning in practice,” Verian said. “Dedric was outstanding in that respect tonight. He used his athletic ability and made sure they got no second-chance points.”
Athens managed to keep the deficit in single digits even to the final two minutes, but once it had to resort to fouling, Fuquay put the game away.
D.J. Burt knocked down a handful of late free throws and finished with 11. Verian led the Bengals with 14, while Jake Hartzell was the third Fuquay player in double digits with 10.
Kashawn Middleton was the only Jags player to reach double figures. He finished with 14.
For Barrow, the signs were encouraging. He said he could finally see some light bulbs coming on in the heads of his young players.
Now he’s hoping the season will go in a completely different direction than it began.
“Hopefully our guys will be able to see the result of their hard work,” Barrow said. “It’s nice to win, but we have to build on it. We’ve won, now we have to carry that over and continue to win. We’re capable. This team should win more than it has so far.”