It was a good night for first-year coaches on Wednesday, with Wake Forest’s girls and Athens Drive’s boys picking up nonconference basketball wins for their new leaders.
The Jaguar boys, led by Robbie St. John, and the Cougar girls, led by Patrick Surles, showed encouraging signs in the season’s early goings.
Jaguars hold off Wake Forest boys in OT
Athens Drive boys’ basketball coach Robbie St. John is trying to develop a winning culture. Wednesday night’s 53-51 overtime win over Wake Forest was a good start.
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Junior guard Altavon Mack knocked down a 3-pointer with 46 seconds remaining in overtime to lock up the game for the Jags, just the second win this season and a huge contrast from going 0-23 last year.
“It’s a testament to our kids because we’ve been down every game,” St. John said. “We’ve played tough teams and been able to go on big runs late, because they just don’t give up … it’s a testament to them.”
Athens Drive (2-2, 0-1 Southwest Wake) had plenty of reasons to pack it up after being outscored 15-4 in the third quarter by Wake Forest (2-3). But showing some new-found grit, the Jags rallied back, tying the game multiple times in the fourth. Athens Drive had a shot to win it in regulation, but Michael Browder’s 3 hit the side of the rim. In the extra session, the Jags only needed one field goal – the shot from Mack – to pick up another victory.
“It was huge,” St. John said about the shot. “He’s got guts to shoot it there because a lot of kids don’t want that shot.”
Xzavier McNeil led the Jaguars with 13 points, one of nine different Athens Drive players to score. Wake Forest point guard Donta Bush led the game with 19. His teammate Theo Howard added 13.
Early this season, the Jags have lost close games because the kids “don’t know how to win,” St. John said. Lucky for him, they didn’t drop their heads and resort back to old ways when they trailed late in the game.
“In a close game, we were able to figure out a way to win,” St. John said. “You can’t teach that in practice. It’s a trial-by-fire kind of thing.”
Wake Forest girls shoot their way to victory
Wake Forest’s girls live by the 3, and against Athens Drive, life was good.
The Cougars got hot from deep, knocking down 14 3-pointers on their way to a 70-51 win over Athens Drive. Wake Forest (1-4) hit seven triples in the first half and had 13 total at the midway point of the third quarter of its first win.
The state record for 3s in a game by a team is 19, set by Northwest Guilford against Parkland in 2011. The Cougars tied Roanoke, Ledford and Weddington for sixth place in state history with their 13 made 3s.
“Once we started attacking the basket and were able to kick it out, it gave them a little more of a warm-up jumper instead of having to rush it,” Wake Forest coach Patrick Surles said. “When we’re off is when we are rushing our jumpers.”
Wake Forest had plenty of room to fire away, especially in the third quarter. The Cougars exploded for a barrage of 3s in a five-minute span, breaking open a tight game and turning it into a shooting clinic.
Wake Forest was led by Keenan Surles, who finished with 21 points (five 3-pointers) and Jada Miller (17 points, five 3-pointers). Keenan’s twin sister, Kayla, added 15 points, hitting four triples.
“It’s very contagious,” coach Surles said. “They see one going in and it’s just like the ocean.”
The Cougars’ first bucket of the night was from behind the arc, foreshadowing what was to come. Wake Forest hit a trio of 3-pointers in the opening quarter, and never stopped firing away. Athens Drive’s last lead was 22-20 in the second quarter, but back-to-back triples by Miller broke the game open.
Freshman Robin Gallagher led the Jaguars (0-5, 0-1 SWAC) with 21 points. Her teammate Sanara Sidney added 16.