The first day of the boys’ John Wall Holiday Invitational games had plenty of dramatic contests between North Carolina schools.
No. 1 Heritage 63, No. 11 Southern Durham 59
It wasn’t always pretty, but N&O No. 1 Heritage stayed perfect, overcoming a 9-point second half deficit to down Southern Durham 63-59 in the opening match-up of the David West bracket.
Heritage’s Jarren McAllister hastily made up for the Huskies’ sloppy start to the afternoon, hitting three consecutive shots – at step-back mid-range jumper, an “and-1” in transition and a 3-pointer – to push his squad to a 26-25 lead at the half.
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“It gave us confidence to know we’re still in it,” McAllister said.
After that, the Huskies took their foot off the gas pedal, allowing the Spartans to win the third quarter 23-13.
In the fourth quarter, Heritage’s fortunes began to turn after Ian Hinkley made an emphatic chasedown block on Southern’s Jomaru Brown the took the air out of the Spartans’ attack.
Southern led 56-52 with 2:38 to go, but Jayden Gardner – who shot 1-for-5 in the first half – took over the game as the Huskies finished the game on a 9-3 run.
Heritage was led by Gardner (17 points, 11 rebounds), McAllister (16 points) and Colton Reed (23 points, 5-for-9 from behind the arc).
Jomaru Brown led the Spartans with 19 points and Antonio Daye Jr. went 6-for-9 from the field for 14 points.
“It wasn’t our best game,” Heritage coach Tilden Brill said. “For us to come back the way we did, I’m just really happy with our mentality, the toughness.”
No. 2 Garner 78, No. 14 Leesville Road 73
Garner started off rolling on all cylinders, taking a 22-8 first quarter lead and never looked back en route to a 78-73 lead.
Despite the Pride nipping on the Trojans’ heels the entire evening – Garner coach Eddie Gray said “At the end, I thought (Leesville) was going to make every 3” – the lead never flipped.
Leesville Road coach Russ Frazier credited jitters to the Pride’s poor start.
“We played jittery … once we settled down, we got stops,” he said. “Every time we got close, we had a lapse on defense.”
Leesville senior Alex Hunter, who led the Pride with 19 points, echoed that statement when complimenting the crowd.
“It’s something I’ve always envisioned or dreamed of,” he said. “One-thousand or 100 people, you have to come out and execute, though.”
Garner was led by Alex Reed, who scored 22 points.
As a team, the Trojans shot 56.4 percent from the field.
“The game was unbelievable,” Gray said. “One of the hardest things is to win two games against an opponent of (Leesville’s) caliber, so I’m real proud of the way we hung in there.”
Cox Mill 68, No. 18 Broughton 51
The long-awaited Holiday Invitational debut came Broughton’s Carson McCorkle, but it was one to forget for the heralded freshman.
In their own gym, the Capitals were never able to get into gear, dropping a 68-51 decision to Cox Mill and Wendell Moore, who finished with 28 points and 16 rebounds.
Broughton’s Jack Holloway appreciated the chance to play in front of a packed house at Broughton.
“It’s one of those crowds that you dream about … and it’s awesome in our home gym,” he said.
Tampa Catholic (Fla.) 71, No. 16 Cary 69
Cary knows how to put on a show and players named “Gensler” aren’t afraid to take big shots.
In its biggest game since last year’s state championship, Cary rose to the occasion, taking Tampa Catholic and top-ranked recruit Kevin Knox down to the wire in a 71-69 loss.
It was the only Tuesday game from the T.J. Warren bracket. Cary is one of two North Carolina teams in the bracket and the only one from the Triangle.
Kyle Gensler hit what seemed to be the game-winning 3-pointer with 10 seconds to go, but missed the first end of a 1-and-1 free throw with 4.1 seconds to go that Knox then took the length of the court to bank in the winning 3-pointer.
“You just have to make plays; we call it ‘hero time.’ We thought we had the play with Kyle Gensler making that 3,” Cary coach Allan Gustafson said. “It’s tough to go through a loss like that, but I couldn’t be prouder of the team.”
Knox, who’s being heavily pursued by North Carolina and Duke, said after the game that he believed it was the first game-winning shot of his career.
Kyle Gensler finished the night with 29 points on 9 of 13 shooting from the field. His brother, Cory, who now plays at Campbell, hit the 3-pointer that sent the Imps to last year’s state championship.
“We had a scouting report on (Cary), but we certainly didn’t think No. 15, Gensler, was going to have 29 points today,” Tampa Catholic coach Don Dziagwa said.
It was one of the best games Kyle has played in his four-year career.
“Kyle has been sick this year, after our Apex game, he had to go to the hospital because he wasn’t feeling well but he sucked it up and played,” Gustafson said. “and it’s taken him a while to get over that illness. It’s so great to have him playing well for us.”
Donte Tatum has had to adjust to becoming Cary’s point guard after Darion Burnett went down with an injury during football season. After struggling with turnovers early in the season, Tatum dished out five assists and only had three turnovers against the Crusaders’ relentless defense.
“Donte Tatum was terrific tonight against their pressure tonight on the entire court for 32 minutes,” Gustafson said. “Their defense was really tough on him and they were making him work for 94 feet to bring the ball up the floor the entire game I thought he was so strong and his decision-making was so good.”
Tatum also scored 20 points on 9 of 17 shooting from the field.
No. 3 Millbrook 54, No. 7 Ravenscroft 45
Despite being 2.3 miles away from each other, Tuesday’s Holiday Invitational game was the first time Millbrook and Ravenscroft had ever faced each other.
The Wildcats never trailed, downing last year’s tournament champions 54-45.
Millbrook’s Patrick Dorsey scored 17 points against his former school.
“I just tried to view it as just another game and not think too much about it,” Dorsey said. “But it was definitely a good feeling at the end.”
His coach, Scott McInnes, chimed in and said otherwise.
“I think (Dorsey) tried to act like it was another game but he was definitely locked into everything this morning,” he said. “He really likes those guys, the coaching staff and players, so I think it was really special for him.”
Ravenscroft has to play at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, giving it less than 12 hours from when its game on Tuesday ended.
Ian DuBose, who scored 17 points for the Ravens, only sat 23 seconds Tuesday night.
David West bracket games:
Southern Durham vs. Ravenscroft (10:30 a.m)
Leesville Road vs. Broughton (12:10 p.m.)
Garner vs. Cox Mill (3:30 p.m.)
Heritage vs. Millbrook (5:10 p.m.)
T.J. Warren bracket games:
J.M. Robinson vs. Thornlea School (1:50 p.m.)
Cannon School vs. University School (6:50 p.m.)
Hillcrest Prep vs. Northwood Temple (8:30 p.m.)