Garner and Cary played another thriller, but this time, the outcome went the Trojans’ way.
The old rivals opened the boys’ basketball season in style, with 13 lead changes and 10 ties before Garner – 1-0 and No. 1 in The News & Observer preseason rankings – emerged with an 85-83 victory over No. 12 Cary Tuesday night before a raucous crowd at Charlie H. Adams Gymnasium.
Just like last season’s 4A East regional final, a guy named Gensler had a 3-point shot to give the Imps the lead.
But Kyle Gensler – unlike Cory Gensler’s heroic shot last season – missed on the 3. Instead, Garner forward Demetric Horton emerged as the hero, draining a long 3 with eight seconds remaining that turned an 83-82 deficit into an 85-83 win.
“The last three ballgames, they’ve beat us at the buzzer,” Trojans coach Eddie Gray said. “I like this Cinderella story a lot better. … It was a great basketball game, and I really liked the ending of it.”
Cory Gensler and Jay Hicks may be gone from the team that went to the state championship game, but the Imps have plenty of talent back.
Donte Tatum scored 37 points Tuesday, and sophomore Jett Fortuny hit five 3s and scored 20 points. Plus, senior Elijah Idlett and junior Philip Blackley will make an impact this season.
“It was hard to find them minutes (last year),” Imps coach Gustafson said. “Those guys were good, and then we have an (N&O) All-Metro guy (Tatum) coming back and a four-year starter, Kyle Gensler – last name Gensler. We care about where we’re going to end up at the end.”
Tatum, a senior guard, hit two free throws with 44.8 seconds left to put Cary up 83-82. Garner’s Kenyon Burt missed a pair of foul shots – a recurring theme for the Trojans – with 30 seconds remaining, but Alex Reed fought for the rebound, and the ball went out of bounds off an Imps player out.
Horton later fired from about 25 feet for his fourth 3 of the game and the final lead change.
“I was just thinking about what we do in practice,” Horton said of his winning shot. “It was just faith. Everybody can step up and anybody can be that guy at any moment. It’s just a matter of the confidence they have or the work ethic they put in to be that guy.”
THEY SAID IT
After making 23 of 27 free throws, Garner went cold in the final 45.9 seconds, missing eight consecutive foul shots. Burt missed four, Horton two and Marque Maultsby two.
“We’ve got some guys who didn’t really have to carry the load, and now they do,” Gray said. “They’re going to have to be able to get in clutch situations and knock those down. … coach (Murray) Poole, I fired him as the free throw coach tonight. But we’ll work on that and get it going.”
THREE TO KNOW
Donte Tatum, Cary: Gray tried several defenders and defenses on Tatum, but he continually slashed his way to the basket. He was especially clutch in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 points, including the Imps’ final seven.
Demetric Horton, Garner: The junior hit two 3s early in the fourth to give Garner a 66-65 lead. He also filled the stat sheet with seven assists, six rebounds and three steals.
“He’s an outstanding player, but he’s got to learn the game,” Gray said. “He’s become our best 3-point shooter in practice, and I was really pleased he was willing to take that shot. Since he hit that shot, he’ll be allowed to shoot that again sometime.”
Alex Reed, Garner: Reed was an effective presence in the middle, leading the Trojans with 21 points and eight rebounds.
BY THE NUMBERS
4: 3-pointers by Gensler in a 14-point night. He went down on the missed 3 late in the game but no foul was called.
“The shot by Kyle was the shot we wanted,” Gustafson said. “Kyle, he’s going to make that.”
4: 3-pointers for Garner in the fourth quarter in five attempts. The Trojans had been 2-for-10 before then.
9: Rebounds for Blackley, who also had four blocked shots. But foul trouble kept him on the bench for extended periods, and he fouled out in the final minute.
“A big part of the game was Philip Blackley having foul trouble,” Gustafson said. “He gives us great inside presence and rebound, and his foul trouble really hurt us. … Not having him was very detrimental for us on the glass.”
78.6: Percent shooting for Cary in the third. The Imps made 11 of 14 shots, including six of seven from 3-point range. Fortuny made three, and Tatum, Idlett and Gensler one apiece. Gensler’s banked 3 at the buzzer gave Cary a 62-60 lead.
“We’ve got some really good shooters,” Gustafson said. “That’s something they do every day in practice. That was not anomalous.”
Burt, a junior center, scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds for Garner.
OUT OF BOUNDS
As Garner built a 10-point lead in the second quarter Trojan fans began chanting, “You need Cory” in reference to Cory Gensler, who now plays at Campbell.