Garner’s basketball team capped its regular season with a 90-32 victory over Rolesville on Friday night that was special on two fronts.
The Trojans, ranked No. 1 in The News & Observer poll, finished 14-0 in the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference — just the second time in Coach Eddie Gray’s 26 seasons that Garner has gone unbeaten in league play. The Trojans also celebrated an individual milestone when senior point guard Julius Barnes scored his 1,000th career point.
“If you would have told me that this team was going to be 14-0 before we started the season, I would have laughed in your face,” Gray said. “I am very proud of the way they have come together. It’s so difficult when you have only one real senior (Barnes) that plays to have that kind of season.
“The kids all understand their roles. We usually have four or five guys in double figures and we have guys running to the bench wanting to know how many assists they have rather than how many points they have scored. They also practice very well together. It’s a joy to go to practice every day.”
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Barnes scored his 20th point of the game with 4:42 left in the fourth period to reach the 1,000-point milestone. Garner called a timeout and Barnes’ feat was recognized, and he came to the bench for the night.
“When you have a young man like that and you start him out as a freshman and learn not just about him as a basketball player but you get to learn about him as a person,” Gray said. “You get to know his mother, his brother, his whole family. He is just the total package, the epitome of a student-athlete.
“He has been all-conference, but he also made all-academic teams while he was here. I am so proud of what he was able to accomplish. It’s pretty awesome when you play four years of varsity basketball and you win three (conference) championships out of those four years. That is not done very often.”
Thomas Allen added 12 points for the Trojans, who led 19-0 before Rolesville scored. Nyles Moore and Alex Reed had 11 points each for Garner.
The Trojans (22-1 overall) have won 13 straight games since losing to Millbrook in the High School OT Holiday Invitational. Gray, who has won 447 games in his career at Garner, also had an unbeaten conference season in 2010-11 when Garner started 26-0 before losing in the third round of the state tournament.
Gray said the confidence the Trojans had developed through the unbeaten run in the conference should be a big plus once they get into tournament play and the state playoffs.
“I have always been a disciple of (former Garner football coach) Coach Hal Stewart,” Gray said. “I learned early on in my coaching career that winning breeds winning. It can’t do anything but help us.
“This team doesn’t get rattled very often. They keep their composure. I am real proud of the way they have played.”
The regular season was special. But now it must be put behind them, Gray said.
“Now we have to get into a tournament mentality because if you are out,” Gray said. “There are no second chances in the tournament. You have to be able to deal with that kind of thinking in the next two weeks.”
Thus far this season, Garner hasn’t needed any second chances. Not when it came to winning in the Greater Neuse River Conference.