Both the Garner boys and Southeast Raleigh girls basketball teams entered Thursday unscathed in Greater Neuse River Conference play, each hoping to avoid an unexpected pitfall as they continue on their quests for regular-season conference titles.
Mission accomplished for both, as Garner’s boys shook off a slow start for an 84-50 victory over the Bulldogs while Southeast’s girls remained unbeaten with an 82-23 win over the Trojans.
Fresh off a 67-63 victory on Monday over Hillside in a showdown of the top two ranked teams in The News & Observer Top 25, second-ranked Southeast (16-0, 6-0 GNRC) had little trouble against winless Garner (0-10, 0-7). The Bulldogs scored the first 10 points of the game and led 32-6 after the first quarter, all 12 players on Southeast’s roster getting into the game in the opening half.
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“What I challenged them to do was not lose the enthusiasm and energy they had from the Hillside game,” Southeast coach Nicole Meyers said. “I think the girls came out aggressive, we wanted to work on executing our offense and try some things defensively that we’re going to work on the second half of our season, and I think they did that well.”
A pleasing development Thursday for Meyers was the performance of sophomore guard Tamia Davis, who built on an 18-point effort against Hillside with 26 points against Garner, including a 16-point first quarter that featured four three-pointers. Davis finished with six 3-pointers, her outside shooting complimenting Southeast’s arsenal of physical, skilled inside players.
“We have been waiting for her to get on during a game,” Meyers said of Davis. “She had a great game against Hillside, so I think she’s turning the corner. She shoots lights out in practice, we were just waiting for that to manifest itself in a game and it did (Thursday).”
Neveah Haddock and Anya Poole both scored eight points and the pair of Kailie Mathews and MaKayla Sutton added seven apiece for Southeast.
Ariona Crutchfield had eight points to pace Garner.
Garner had a little tougher time than the Southeast girls, at least in the early going, before improving to 14-2 overall and 7-0 in the GNRC. It is Garner’s 50th straight conference win.
The Trojans held a 26-24 lead midway through the second quarter before seizing control with an 18-4 run over the final 3 minutes, 30 seconds of the frame to build an 18-point halftime lead.
That run included three three-pointers over the final minute of the quarter, the first two by Demetric Horton before Kenyon Burt nailed one from the left wing at the buzzer to put Garner ahead, 44-26.
A 30-point third quarter removed any lingering doubt, with Alex Reed scoring seven of his team-high 15 points in the quarter, as Garner stretched its lead to 74-39 before going deep into its bench for the final eight minutes.
“We know that everybody is coming for us, so we know we have to keep our foot on the gas,” said Burt, who added 14 points. “We just have to keep winning these games. ... It wasn’t a great start, and coach (Eddie Gray) was really yelling at us but we know we can play and what we’re capable of when we we’re playing (well).”
Gray has been battling a stomach bug, and he half-jokingly thought that maybe it rubbed off on his players at the start of Thursday’s game.
Southeast (6-10, 3-3) scored the game’s first seven points, five of those by Ahmad Waldron, and Garner didn’t take its first lead until a coast-to-coast drive and bucket by Burt put the Trojans up 11-9 with 3:55 left in the opening quarter.
The contest remained tight until midway through the second quarter, Southeast cutting the deficit to 26-24 on an Ericson Loveless basket before Garner finally turned it on as the Trojans cut down on their miscues offensively and forced numerous turnovers with its full-court press.
“We missed a lot of easy shots inside in the first quarter, we might have been a little too up for the game,” said Gray, whose team will play in the Peachtree Corners Invitational in Norcross, Ga. beginning on Saturday. “Southeast did a good job of turning us over, but we got a few three-pointers there and turned up the intensity on defense.”
Loveless had a game-high 16 points and Noah Thompson added 12 points for Southeast.