GARNER — A pair of fouls in the first minute of Friday night’s game left Garner without its leading scorer for the rest of the first half. The Trojans, without Demarcus Sanford, fell behind 8-2.
But that was about all that went wrong for Garner, the area’s third-ranked boys basketball team, during an 86-50 victory against Greater Neuse River 4A Conference rival Knightdale.
The win was the Trojans’ seventh straight against the Knights, who lost for the first time in conference play this season.
“We just got great play out of guys like Justin Baird, Kyreece Mills and held our own with two guys in foul trouble for a half,” Garner coach Eddie Gray said. “John Alston gave us some good play as well. He’s a great athlete. He just has to learn how to play the way we need him to play off of the bench.”
Mills had a game- and personal-high 16 points, scoring all of those points in the first half. He closed the first quarter with a 3-pointer, then opened the second quarter with a steal and a dunk as third-ranked Garner (9-2, 3-0) started to expand its lead.
Baird finished with five points but was a key part of Garner’s post presence which gave the Trojans a slew of high-percentage shots in the first half, helping Garner roll to a 42-32 halftime lead.
“I told the kids at the half that we didn’t play with our top two scorers for much of the first half and we finished the half up 10 points,” Gray said. “I challenged Demarcus to come out and play a great half and see what we could do with our regular lineup in there.”
The Trojans’ offensive production spread in the second half with five players finishing in double figures. Sammy Saunders added 14, while Julius Barnes had 13. Jasper Stallings and John Alston chipped in 10 each.
Ninth-ranked Knightdale (9-4, 3-1) had three players reach double-figures, paced by Ronshad Allen-Shabazz’s 13. Travarious Fowler added 11 and Kaelon Weldon put up 10.
Garner held the Knights to 18 second-half points.
“We knew we had to keep track of Allen-Shabazz but you really don’t know what you’re going to see from somebody until you get on the court,” Gray said. “I thought we took advantage when he (Allen-Shabazz) got into foul trouble, then had some success with our pressure. We went to a zone later and that was pretty solid as well.”
Knightdale took its 8-2 lead three minutes in and was on the verge of getting the Trojans into real foul trouble early, drawing three Garner fouls in the game’s first 45 seconds, but Garner had just five fouls in the final 14 minutes of the first half.