APEX — Garner’s young boys basketball team showed it is learning the style that has made the Trojans a force in the area 4A ranks Wednesday night against Middle Creek.
The Trojans thrived in their fast-paced style for a 94-82 road win over the Mustangs. Garner freshman Thomas Allen had a game-high 31 points and sophomore forward Jashaun Smith added 21 points in the win.
Allen scored 15 of his points in the opening quarter.
“We’re playing with two freshmen, a sophomore and junior and we added a football player tonight,” said Garner coach Eddie Gray. “They’re young but they played good basketball tonight.”
Middle Creek (3-3) stayed in the game early with five 3-pointers in the opening quarter but couldn’t keep up with the Trojans’ pace in the second and third frames.
What worked: Garner’s break-neck pace helped the Trojans build what was a 27-point lead just before the end of the third quarter.
“We have to get out and force the pace,” Gray said. “We don’t have the guys inside to play a lot of half-court basketball so we’re going to pressure with our defense, hope to create turnovers and easy baskets.”
Garner had 16 transition points in the first half to Middle Creek’s zero, which came as a shock to Kushner.
“We played scared for three quarters,” Kushner said. “We’re trying to play like the Garner style, but we’ve got to do it better. We did it in the fourth quarter and got back in it, we looked confident and shared the ball.”
What didn't work: Middle Creek’s ball handling at times. The Mustangs finished the night with 19 turnovers.
“Our goal every game as a team is 10 turnovers or less,” Kushner said. “And against a team like Garner, you have no chance if you turn the ball over. Dino Gaudio, the college coach, always talked about turnovers for touchdowns and we gave up too many of those.”
Putting up Numbers: Middle Creek senior Fred Irafemi had a historic night, notching the first triple-double in the program’s history. Irafemi finished with 20 points, 16 rebounds and 12 blocked shots.
“Fred is the best high school player I’ve ever been seen,” Kushner said. “The number of blocks he gets is great but you add in the number of shots he forces guys to alter is even bigger. We’re just trying to get him to be a more confident player on the offensive end. If he improves on offense that can pay huge dividends down the road.”
Best quote: “I went to the Pearl Harbor speech before the game to get the guys going,” Gray said. “I compared the football game to Pearl Harbor and this game to bombing Toyko. And it fit really well when you look at it historically.”
The Toyko rail was the United States’ retaliation against the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Although the attack did no significant damage to Japan’s military arsenal it was a significant propaganda victory for the United States.
Gray added that he’s currently teaching World War II in his history classes at Garner High.
Middle Creek’s student section, which engaged in a memorable and clean back and forth with the Garner student section throughout the game, did have one sign to jab at Garner a bit.
It was an update on the “Creek Crazies” plans for the NCHSAA 4AA football eastern regional championship game that Middle Creek played on Friday night against Wake Forest.
Middle Creek beat Garner 24-21 last week to advance to that regional final.
Going forward: Both teams are still feeling the affects of the success of their football teams. Kushner admitted his team will change again when the football season ends and new players are added. Garner spent the first two days of the week having a second round of tryouts basically for the seven football players who wanted to join the basketball team.
Best: 919-524-8895; Twitter: @dclaybest