Balance is key for teams in boys' 4A basketball regional

cbest@newsobserver.comMarch 4, 2013 

— Balance – in scoring and rebounding – has been the theme of the season for the teams in Tuesday night’s 4A boys’ basketball eastern regional semifinals at the Crown Coliseum.

The coaches of Durham Hillside (21-7), Broughton (25-5), Clayton (28-2) and Fayetteville 71st (27-2) believe another balanced attack is the key to winning and earning a spot in Saturday’s regional championship game.

Hillside, which meets Broughton at 7 p.m. in the first game of the doubleheader, used 12 players in several games. Picking Hillside’s offensive statistical leaders each night is akin to nailing down lottery numbers. Eight players have led the Hornets in scoring this season. They’ve had six leading rebounders and five assist leaders.

“We never know who it’s going to be (with) the hot hand,” said Hillside coach Crasten Davis. “We hope that presents a challenge for other teams.”

Hillside’s roster is also balanced with five seniors, five juniors and five sophomores. Malik Evans and Robert Robinson Jr. both average more than 12 points for the Hornets, who beat PAC Six champion and rival Durham Jordan in the third round. DeShon Self averages 10 points, while Marius McAllister leads the team with 5.2 rebounds a night.

Broughton, which beat three Wake County teams to make the regional, has five players averaging between six and 15 points a night. Chris Brickhouse, Chase Johnston, Cameron Gottfried and Devonte’ Graham average more than 3.7 rebounds a game, but none averages more than James Hemphill’s 5.8.

“Rebounding has to be a collaborative effort for us,” said Caps coach Jeff Ferrell. “We don’t have that one guy. Just like we don’t have that one 25-point-a-game scorer.”

Clayton’s Gary Clark is the only player among the four teams who averages close to 25 points. Clark averages 24.4 points and 14.4 rebounds a game, but is averaging 33.3 points a game in the playoffs and recently topped the 1,500-point career scoring mark.

Senior teammate Anthony Gaskins can fill up the hoop nearly as well, averaging 18.7 points a game. He has passed 1,200 points for his career.

The pair have played a key role in leading Clayton to its first regional appearance under head coach Denny Medlin and its winningest season (28 wins) in the school’s long basketball history. (The Comets had 27-win teams in 1950 and 2008.)

“The maturity of our kids has been the difference,” Medlin said. “We’ve been able to overcome all kinds of adversity. Kids are working together and making plays. Gary and Anthony are leading us like the playoff veterans they are.”

While the Comets get a bulk of their scoring from two players, there have been games when other players had big nights.

Freshman point guard Tre Armstead had a 16-point game, Dawson Medlin hit five 3-pointers in a game and Chris Dixon had a 17-point night.

“When we execute our offense, Gary and Anthony are going to score a lot of points,” Medlin said. “So if we can get three or four other guys who chip in five or 10 points, we’re over 70 points.”

Fayetteville 71st has nine seniors and is playing in its hometown. Three Falcons players average between 14-15 points a night led by Marcus Williams’ 15.

“This is a group that’s grown up together,” said 71st coach David Simmons. “I’ve got a team photo of them as freshmen on the wall in my office and I look at them then and now and marvel at it.”

The Falcons spent a lot of prep time on Clark and Gaskins in their Monday practice.

“We haven’t played anybody like Gary Clark this season,” Simmons said. “We’ll have to do some things defensively that we haven’t done. But we’ll be very aware of Gaskins as well, because I’ve heard a lot about him and how he can put the ball in the hole.”

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