For the second time in a month, Knightdale completed a doubleheader basketball sweep of rival East Wake.
This time the Knights took care of business on their home floor, the girls rolling Tuesday to a 54-32 victory behind 18 points from Zee Bowens while the boys prevailed, 72-58, as Tristan Davis scored 18 points. Knightdale had previously swept the Warriors on Jan. 17.
Both Greater Neuse River Conference contests were tight after two quarters before the hosts seized control in the second half.
The girls game was knotted at 17-all at halftime. With a commitment to getting the ball inside, Knightdale dominated in the second half.
The Knights (17-5, 11-2 GNRC) opened the third quarter with an 11-2 run – Devan Jarrell scoring five points and Bowens four during the surge – to take a 28-19 lead with 4 minutes 34 seconds left in the frame. Knightdale also started strong in the fourth quarter, scoring 15 of the first 16 points to open up a 47-25 lead. East Wake fell to 15-7, 8-5 in GNRC play, with the loss.
“I think we were shooting too many outside shots in the first half, I think we were 0-for-9 from behind the three-point line,” Knightdale girls coach Trent Bunn said. “We made a concerted effort to make the extra pass and get the ball inside.”
Knightdale’s boys led 29-26 after two quarters. After an East Wake basket to open the third quarter, Knightdale (11-10, 8-5) went on a 12-0 run to take a 41-28 lead with 5:40 left in the quarter and the Warriors (5-17, 3-10) would get no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
The victory clinched second place for Knightdale in the Greater Neuse River Conference, and it also marked the eighth victory in nine games for the Knights, the lone loss coming at undefeated Southeast Raleigh on Jan. 31.
For senior Zee Bowens, the win over East Wake carried added significance. A fourth-year varsity player, Bowens was part of a stretch prior to this season in which the Warriors had won 18 of 20 games against their rival.
“Beating them twice this season, it means something,” Bowens said. “We weren’t too hyped after the game, because we felt we should have won this game, but it was important. It’s really the start of our push for the postseason.”
Knightdale will be a tough team to face come conference tournament play next week and then state playoff competition after that, the Knights a veteran team with several significant senior contributors.
Bowens is chief among them. Her inside play against East Wake, particularly in the second half when she scored 14 of her game-high 21 points, was a key component in Knightdale’s victory.
Bunn sees a squad that is peaking at the right time.
“I think we’re coming together as a team, we love one another and we bring it in practice,” Bunn said. “Our preparation has been important. That’s our motto this season, our separation is in our preparation.”
After a near upset of conference-leading Garner on Friday, Knightdale coach Anthony Byrd wondered how his kids would follow that effort against an East Wake squad that has struggled much of the season.
It wasn’t always pretty, but Byrd felt his team did just enough good things in the comfortable win over the Warriors.
“It was good and bad, a lot of ups and downs,” Byrd said. “I wish our team would have played a little smarter but East Wake always brings it. We need to get smarter with our possessions.”
It was a ragged showing at times, but the victory continued a recent stretch of success for Knightdale as the Knights have won six of their last nine games, one of the losses Friday’s 75-70 setback against Garner.
Byrd believes the team’s improved fortunes have come largely on the maturing play of junior point guard Tristan Davis. A first-year player for Knightdale after transferring from Word of God Christian Academy, Davis has been more aggressive in his approach during competition.
“He’s been playing a lot better at the point, and we’re going to need that as we continue to try to position ourselves for conference-tournament play,” Byrd said. “He’s finding some lanes going to the basket, whereas earlier in the season he was doing a lot of spins that he didn’t have to have, he’s finishing at the basket a lot better. That’s made a big difference, it’s opened up a lot of things for this team.”
Davis helped the Knights pull away in the second half against East Wake. He scored 13 of his team-high 18 points in the second half, including 11 in the final frame as he hit nine of 11 free throws.
“I used to be a pass-first guard, and that wasn’t working that well for my team,” Davis said. “So I changed to a scoring-mindset point guard. I think we have been playing well now, coming into the playoffs if we come in hard we have the capability to win.”