When Garner executes the up-tempo game that it favors, a win usually follows.
Such was the case in Thursday’s N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A second-round playoff game against Broughton, a team that favors a more deliberate pace but could not slow down the Trojans.
Garner, the defending state 4A champion and second seed in the East bracket, led from start to finish – building a 20-point lead and holding off a late Broughton push to win 83-71.
“Broughton never gave up, started getting hot and hit some timely 3s,” Garner coach Eddie Gray said. “We kind of hung on and made some mistakes with the ball but made just enough shots to win.”
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No. 18 Broughton fell behind 21-10 after the first quarter and could not match the speedy Trojans.
“We had a plan that we thought would be good enough for us to perhaps knock off a team of this caliber,” Broughton coach Jeff Ferrell said. “But saying it and doing it are two different things. We could not control that tempo early on. Even when we made baskets, they were just getting the ball up the court so fast and just so effortlessly.
“It’s just hard to come back against anybody when you are down 19 or 20 points.”
Garner (27-2) won its 17th straight game and advanced to a third-round match Saturday night in Garner against Durham Riverside.
The Trojans took charge in the second quarter, building a 20-point margin at 44-24 in the final minute before a late 3-pointer by Broughton’s Tharon Suggs cut the halftime margin to 44-27.
Garner was led by junior Alex Reed, who knocked down a couple of 3-pointers early and then did most of his damage inside the rest of the game to finish with 21 points. Junior Thomas Allen had 18 points, senior Andrew Abrom 15 and senior Nick Kuhns 15.
“I told Alex before the game that this could be a big game for him,” Gray said. “When they went to the zone, that gave him an opening down inside. He’s been struggling the past couple of games and he really came through for us tonight.”
Reed, who was held to five points in a first-round victory over Wilmington Ashley, said it was just a matter of having fun.
“I tried to have some fun tonight,” Reed said. “I felt like I wasn’t having much fun in that first game. Tonight, I just wanted to come out and have some fun.”
Kuhns was hot for the Trojans early, hitting four 3-pointers in the first half.
“The first half it was the Nick Kuhns show,” Gray said. “I told them at half that we couldn’t count on Nick to hit 3s the whole game. But it was really balanced.”
Broughton rallied in the final period, whittling away at the Trojans’ lead to pull within 12 points after consecutive 3-pointers by the Caps. The Caps got within 10 points and 76-66 with 1:09 left by the Trojans made seven of eight free throws down the stretch to keep the Caps at bay.
Broughton (17-11) got a game-high 23 points from Suggs, a senior guard who was hot from 3-point range. Sophomore Tyler Palmer added 20 and 6-foot-9 junior center Jack Hemphill had 10.
Broughton finished tied for second in the Cap-8 after losing nine seniors from last year’s team.
“There were some tremendous bright spots on this year’s team,” Ferrell said. “I had as many sophomores as I have ever had on a team. These kids grew up. They lost some close games early in the year but they played some good competition and I think it helped them play some good ball at the end of the season.”
The Caps will lose six seniors, three of them starters, but will return Hemphill and a strong group of underclassmen.
“We’ve got some young pieces and hopefully they have learned from these seniors and will set some high goals next year,” Ferrell said.