In the high school basketball season opener, as East Wake played host to Smithfield-Selma, first impressions and second chances definitely favored the host Warriors.
In the boys contest, East Wake scored the game’s first 14 points and showed many promising traits for such a young group in the 78-59 win over the Spartans.
Eleven different Warriors scored with four players hitting double figures led by Guy Ferguson and his 15 points. East Wake held a 52-18 advantage on the glass, a luxury that came in handy as the Spartans attempted to chip away at the double-digit lead.
Smithfield-Selma’s backcourt duo of Anthony Council and Kavon Ward did their best in trying to get the Spartans back into the game, with each player going for 22 points.
The East Wake girls basketball team, coming off of a 24-win campaign a season ago, gave a solid first impression as well for the home crowd as they were dominant in every facet of the game in a 52-7 romp over Smithfield-Selma.
The Warriors used a 22-10 rebounding advantage in the first half to continue to stretch that lead until they led by 27 points at the break.
Eight different players scored for East Wake on the night.
The East Wake boys basketball team graduated eight of its 11 players from a season ago so head coach Kenneth Melton entered his team’s opening game of this season with a lot of questions.
After they stormed out to a huge lead and held off a couple charges from Smithfield-Selma to get the 19-point win, Melton liked a lot of the answers he saw play out on the court.
“I’ve got a lot of guys who haven’t played before; I didn’t know what to expect,” Melton said. “We had moments when I was pleasantly surprised and other moments where I could see we need a lot more work. But for the first game and as inexperienced as we are, I was pleased.”
The key early on for the Warriors was the hot outside shooting of Evan King. King connected three times from behind the three-point line in the first half to stretch the Spartans’ defense. The junior finished the game with 14 points.
After falling behind 14-0, Smithfield-Selma relied on its defense to create some offense, which was struggling early on. The Spartans forced 13 East Wake first half turnovers but had a tough time converting those opportunities into points as the visitors trailed the Warriors 34-18 at halftime.
Shot selection was a point of emphasis from Smithfield-Selma coach Matt Cuddington.
“We’re a good 3-point shooting team but we can’t rely on that, especially early in the game,” Cuddington said. “We need to run our stuff, get some movement, attack the basket then kick it outside, that’s when you hit the threes. We settled too much and we settled too much early and that was the problem.”
The Spartans were 0-10 from three-point range in the first half.
East Wake built the lead up to 28 points in the third quarter and despite an improved offensive showing in the second half from the Spartans, the closest Smithfield-Selma could to get to was 16 points on an Anthony Council jumper early in the fourth quarter.
In addition to Ferguson and King, Donald Pickney hit double figures with 11 points and junior Kelshawn Miller added 10 points. James Simon pulled down 13 rebounds.
T.J. Altman and Rashad Potts each contributed six points for the Spartans, though Council and Ward did much of the damage on the night.
After seeing her team’s performance in its first game of the season, East Wake coach Toni Dupree saw a lot of work that needed to be done, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
That’s scary news for any future opponents of the Warriors as Dupree’s squad held Smithfield-Selma to just two field goals for the entire game in routing the Spartans 52-7.
East Wake, No. 15 in The News & Observer preseason rankings, jumped out to a quick 13-4 lead after the first quarter. It was a lead that could have been substantially bigger, however, as the Warriors missed many opportunities from in close.
Offensive rebounds were what helped the hosts overwhelm the Spartans, though, as the Warriors gobbled up their own misses to the tune of 22 offensive rebounds.
The difficulty in converting chances, especially early on in the game, wasn’t a concern to Dupree, however.
“I preach defense,” said Dupree. “Defensively, we’ve still got a lot to work on. The offense will come if we continue to work on our execution, but my main thing is defense.”
Smithfield-Selma’s Caroline Carter and Logan Lee each hit a jumper in the opening quarter but the Spartans were held to just three made free throws over the final 24 minutes of the contest.
Senior Tamira Knuckles led the Warriors with 12 points, Jasmine Reid pitched in with eight and Emiyah Brown turned in a workmanlike seven point, seven rebound performance.