Garner coach Eddie Gray loves preserving school tradition.
But on Saturday, he’ll take a championship over stonewalling the latest challenger to the John Wall Holiday Invitational scoring record, held by former Garner and UNC great Donald Williams.
Garner will play Wilson’s Greenfield School at 8:30 p.m. (note: this is a change from the original schedule) Saturday in the title game of the Holiday Invitational. Greenfield senior Coby White, a UNC recruit, scored 46 in Greenfield’s opening win over Kinston on Wednesday, then 32 to edge Broughton in the semifinals on Thursday.
The record is in serious jeopardy.
White needs 37 to tie Williams’ tournament record of 115 set back in 1990, and 38 to break it.
Garner and Greenfield, both teams that like to play at a fast pace, played in the Millbrook Showcase on Dec. 2. Garner won 94-76, and White had 46 in the loss.
“I thought it was 26, but I misunderstood it,” Gray quipped on Thursday after Garner throttled Christ School in the semifinals. “Our goal was to hold him under 30, and we didn’t do it.”
This isn’t the first time Garner has had the unique opportunity to defend its own legend’s record.
Williams was on the Garner bench as an assistant coach in 2013, when Garner played future Kentucky Wildcat and NBA lottery pick Devin Booker in the seventh-place game.
Booker, playing for Moss Point (Miss.), needed 36 to break the record.
Garner held him to 31, and Booker tied for second (111).
Gray, known for his one-liners, had one afterward – “I really didn’t care if we won the game or not, we were just going to keep him from breaking the record” – that summed up Garner’s determination to keep Booker from surpassing one of Garner’s greats.
But playing for seventh-place and playing for a championship in this tournament are worlds apart, and a championship comes first.
“We’re just going to try to win the ballgame,” Gray said.
Garner would gladly like to accomplish both goals on Saturday: a win and keeping White shy of 38 points.
Greenfield’s second-leading scorer, Elijah McCadden, a Georgia Southern recruit who didn’t play against Garner in the first meeting, which will add a new element to the showdown.
Gray needled senior point guard Marque Maultsby at the news conference: “Isn’t (White) the guy you were guarding?”
Maultsby smiled wryly: “Nah, nah.”
Gray looked to his right at guard Trayvon Ferrell: “Maybe that was you that was guarding him?”
“It wasn’t me,” Ferrell replied.
“Well, we’ll have to come up with a different plan,” Gray said.
Tournament officials expect a sold-out crowd to watch that plan unfold.