Apex Friendship boys basketball coach Kevin Wills knows what the first season in school history holds, and it looks a lot like Tuesday night. The Patriots, playing in their first home game and Southwest Wake Athletic Conference opener, lost 85-46 to Fuquay-Varina.
Fuquay’s recipe to success, after Friendship took its first lead in school history (the Patriots trailed the whole time in the inaugural contest, a 59-15 loss at Jordan-Matthews) and tied the game 10-all after the first quarter, will surely be repeated.
The Bengals pressed the Patriots (0-2, 0-1), forcing turnover after turnover. Fuquay out-muscled Friendship’s freshmen and sophomores to layups and putbacks. Fuquay-Varina (1-3, 1-0) opened the second quarter on a 16-0 run and led 40-18 at halftime.
“You would have to be an idiot to not recognize the physical difference between Fuquay and Apex Friendship. With that being said, we signed up for this. We knew this was coming,” Wills said. “You wouldn’t be a good coach if you didn’t press a ninth and 10th grade team full of 14- and 15-year-olds.”
On the other bench, Fuquay-Varina is off to a 1-0 start in the SWAC. It’s been awhile since the Bengals were first in the league.
In coach Danny Strong’s third year, the players are starting to show better off-court chemistry, guard Brenton Hardy said.
“It feels a lot different because we’re coming together as a team,” said Hardy, who tied for a game-high 16 points with teammate Trey Terry. “It’s a much different look from last year. We’re playing harder... We’re definitely a more up-tempo team. From our guards to our bigs, we’re athletic and fast.”
Terry had 10 rebounds for a double-double while teammates Syvon Hollard and Jake Murdock scored 11 points each. Hardy added six assists.
The Bengals racked up 20 steals against the Patriots thanks in large pat to the press.
Fuquay-Varina nearly trailed before the game had even started. A dunk in warmups, which Fuquay was whistled for, gave Friendship two technical foul free throws to start the game.
Both missed, but the Bengals never quite got out of the funk until the second quarter.
“(Friendship) started playing really strong at the beginning of the game and we weren’t getting into our rhythm, so I wanted to push the rhythm up so we can kind of get into our flow,” Strong said.
Friendship was led in scoring by Jacob Fitzgerald and Bredon Lucero, who had nine points each. Lucero added a game-high 12 rebounds.
Wills was happy with his team’s shot selection and patience early. Friendship took a 7-6 lead with 2:57 left in the first quarter.
The growing pains will be hard, but the Patriots will take their lumps together as a collective group. Out of 27 players in the varsity and JV programs, 21 are freshmen.
With so many players making the transition from middle school basketball, Wills has both teams practice together to push each other and develop the program as a whole.
“Our main focus this year is our energy, our effort and our encouragement,” Wills said. “I love the guys slapping the floor even though we’re down 25 points. We’re making a statement.”