Defending state 4A basketball champion Garner settled its N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A boys basketballl playoff opener early.
The Trojans pressed Wilmington Ashley from the start, forcing turnovers and easy baskets, and bolted to a 38-11 lead after one quarter Tuesday. Garner went on to win the opening-round playoff game 88-65 and advance to a meeting with Broughton.
“They played real well the first quarter,” Garner coach Eddie Gray said. “They were unselfish and did a good job of running our fullcourt trapping defense and got some easy turnovers.
“I was real pleased with the way we started the game.”
Never miss a local story.
The Trojans substituted liberally after building the big lead, and one group in particular drew kudos from Coach Gray.
“When the sophomores came in there they gave us some real good minutes,” Gray said. “That’s the Class of 2018, that was good to get them in together. Everybody got to play. It was a good way to start the tournament.”
Garner (26-2), the second seed in the Eastern 4A bracket, won its 16th straight game. Ashley, the 31st seed, finished 11-14.
Senior guard Nick Kuhns led the Trojans with 16 points, scoring 12 points in the big first quarter.
“Nick shot the ball well early and got some runouts on the break and made some easy baskets for us,” Gray said. “He had one of his better games.”
Kuhns said the Trojans were focused on starting strong in their playoff opener.
“We knew we wanted to start off where we left off last year in the playoffs,” Kuhns said. “So we came out firing, with a lot of energy. We wanted to play good defense and the offense would feed off that. We came out really hot and got a big lead.
“That’s got to be one of the best quarters we’ve played this season. It was a total team effort.”
Kenyon Burt added 15 points for Garner and Thomas Allen had 13.
Ashley was led by Qadhafi Turner with a game-high 23 points. Turner was one of several Ashley players who had the hot hand from 3-point range, helping the Screaming Eagle cut into the lead once the Trojans went to the bench.
Garner, meanwhile, put on a dunkfest, getting six dunks in the contest – including a slam in the final seconds from reserve sophomore Marque Maultsby that brought the Trojans’ bench to its feet.
“If we can just keep that team aspect, which can sometimes be hard to do, we’ll be alright,” Gray said. “Hopefully, we got a new burst of energy here and we’ll have a good practice tomorrow and get back out there and try to survive and advance.”