BENSON — Garner’s sophomore point guard Julius Barnes, a playmaker with extraordinary quickness, has added a weapon to his game. Leave the 5-foot-8 speedster alone on the perimeter and he’ll drop in a 3-pointer, making it doubly tough on opposing defenses.
Barnes scored nine of his 11 points from 3-point range Tuesday night as the Trojans rolled past West Johnston, 77-36.
It was an empty-the-bench game for the Trojans, who had a 22-0 lead after the first quarter. When Barnes was in the game, he was an effective playmaker, making several nice assists. But he also nailed three 3-pointers, including two on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter.
“He’s a great 3-point shooter and sometimes he doesn’t look for it,” Garner coach Eddie Gray said. “When they went to that zone, I told him at halftime, ‘If you’ve got an open look at it, shoot it.’
“In practice, he fills it up. As a point guard, that is something that we don’t stress but if he has an open shot, we want him to take it.”
Barnes, who was averaging 13.3 points for the Trojans (10-2, 4-0 Greater Neuse River 4A), had made 19 of 35 3-pointers coming into the game against West Johnston (2-10, 0-5).
“Coach Gray just told me to be more confident and look for take more 3s,” Barnes said. “He said look for my shot more. I’m going to look for my teammates first, but if [opponents] collapse on me, I’m going to shoot it.”
Junior Kyreece Mills led the Trojans with 16 points on a night when 13 players scored for the Trojans. Sammy Saunders added 10 points. Senior Demarcus Sanford, who leads the Trojans in scoring (16.6 points per game coming into the West Johnston contest), had an off night with seven points.
The first quarter, in which West Johnston had 10 turnovers and was 0-for-9 from the field, was disastrous for the Wildcats.
“To start the game, we had a lot of really good looks,” West Johnston coach Kris Bennett said. “We just didn’t make them. We’re really a feast or famine type team. Tonight, we got down and we’re scoreboard watching. In the second half, their press really started wearing us down.”
Josh Banfalvy led the Wildcats with 10 points.
For the Trojans, who returned only one starter from last season, the parts are starting to fit together. They are getting production from their bench and have an athletic team that can keep up the pressure on defense and push the ball on offense, which are Garner trademarks.
“We got everybody in the ball game,” said Gray, who notched career victory No. 396. “It was a good morale game for us.”
“I was telling the kids that I am very proud of the way this team has improved from day one,” Gray said. “The bench just played excellent against Knightdale last Friday and tonight they did a good job. It’s a lot of fun when you can get all the kids in the game and they still play the game the way they are supposed to play it.”
And it doesn’t hurt when you have a point guard who can also knock in 3-pointers.