RALEIGH — University of North Carolina recruits Joel Berry and Justin Jackson were the main reasons many fans turned out for the first night session of the annual Holiday Invitational high school basketball tournament at Broughton High.
But after Berry and his Orlando Lake Highland Prep teammates rolled Triangle power Clayton 73-45 for a win in the Shavlik Randolph bracket of the tournament, it was obvious that the Highlanders were more than a touring troupe with only a starring act.
Berry, a 6-foot point guard, had plenty of highlights but it was the 3-point shooting of the entire Lake Highland team that put the Comets (9-2) away early.
Berry had 14 points and 10 rebounds while dishing out six assists. The balance the Highlanders wanted helped make Clayton’s night tougher and it easier for Berry and his teammates to find open shots.
“We like to engage two defenders every time we have the ball,” Berry said. “That’s what we work on in practice because if two defenders are engaged against you, somebody else is open.
“As a point guard, my job is not only to score but to make sure everybody else scores.”
Clayton coach Denny Medlin said Berry was the root of the Comets’ uncharacteristic problems on the defensive end.
“We couldn’t keep Berry out of the lane,” Medlin said. “They did a good job against our zone, so we went man. But when you’ve got everybody around him banging down 3s, they’re tough.”
Lake Highland jumped out to a 24-9 lead in the first eight minutes as the Clayton offense centered around Cincinnati recruit Gary Clark struggled to keep up on either end with the Highlanders early.
“We needed our offense to help our defense,” Medlin said. “Especially against a team that’s shooting like that. I thought we took too many quick shots that we tougher than we’d like in the first half.”
Clark, who suffered a dislocated finger on his right hand in the first quarter, played through the pain after a tape job but admitted the pain became tough to deal with in the fourth quarter. He finished with 14 points and 15 rebounds.
Lake Highland will get another Triangle-area power in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday when it meets Apex.
Apex used a 25-point fourth quarter to get its 64-59 win over Moss Point (Miss.). T.J. Evans hit 9 of his 12 free throws on the afternoon and led the Cougars with 19 points. Ian Boyd added 18 on 8-of-9 shooting from the field.
Moss Point’s Devin Booker, a Kentucky recruit, had a game-high 42 points in the loss.
Katy (Texas) Homeschool Christian Youth Association defeated a young Raleigh Word of God squad, 73-55. The Warriors’ squad flew in from Houston earlier in the day.
Jackson, a 6-7 slashing small forward, finished with 36 points and 14 rebounds on 14-of-24 shooting from the field.
In other Summit bracket games Thursday, Sanderson fell to Carlisle 63-57. Taj Thompson, Chase Gower and Hunter Kuehn scored 14 points each for the Spartans in the loss. Wilbraham and Monson Academy topped Middle Creek 67-65. John Tankelewicz had a game-high 22 points for Middle Creek.
Sanderson and Middle Creek meet today at 11:30 a.m.
Hammond School defeated Trinity Christian 79-65 behind a 42-point night for Duke recruit Seventh Woods who went 7-of-11 from 3-point range on the night. Dennis Smith Jr. of Trinity Christian had 22 points and six assists in the loss.
Kinston held Broughton scoreless in overtime for a 49-46 win to advance in the Randolph bracket. The Vikings made the only field goal of the overtime period in a game that featured seven ties and seven lead changes. Cameron Gottfried, son of N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried, led the Caps with 19 in the loss.
Kinston will meet Wheeler (Ga.) in a 4 p.m. semifinal Friday. Wheeler pulled away from Garner for am 86-60 win after trailing 29-22 early in the first quarter. Elijah Staley (26) and Jaylen Brown (23) of Wheeler led the scoring. Garner freshman Thomas Allen had 12 in the loss.
The Trojans meet Broughton at 2:30 Friday.
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