Defending state 4A basketball champion Garner blitzed visiting Riverside late in the first half to take control and went on a to 92-74 win in a N.C. High School Athletic Association boys basketball third round playoff game Saturday night.
The win sets up a match between third-seed Millbrook, which edged Apex 75-74, and the 28-2 second-seeded Trojans Tuesday night at Garner.
“That game Tuesday is going to be a big game for everybody,” said Garner’s Davon Newton, who came off the bench to score seven points in the win.
Riverside (18-9), a seven-seed, took it to the Trojans early, going ahead 11-5 just over three minutes into the game. But Garner went on a 13-0 run, fueled by a 3-pointer by junior Alex Reed and two more threes by senior Thomas Allen.
Riverside came back to within four, 35-31 with just over two minutes to play in the half, but again Garner rallied and led 49-33 at halftime. Garner senior co-captain Andrew Abrom had a basket early in the run and made a big difference late with a follow slam and then a steal and layup for the final two baskets of the half and a 16-point lead.
“We knew they were going to pressure us and we worked on it and prepared,” Riverside coach Brian Strickland said. “We knew we could stay with them if we did what we were supposed to do. And we did that for about 14 minutes of the first half, but they put on another run and knocked us back. Then they came out in the second half with another run. They are deep and athletic and transitioned so quickly.”
Fueled by a relentless defense, Garner continued to pull away in the third quarter, building a 73-48 lead entering the final period.
“We really did a good job with our fullcourt pressure and halfcourt trapping zone,” Garner coach Eddie Gray said. “It was a good pace for us and we had a great effort and a lot of guys off the bench played well. We got good leadership and Abrom had an outstanding game. Somebody always seems to step up. Last game it was Nick Kuhns, this game Andrew.”
“We thought we could pressure them and that worked out in our favor,” said Abrom, who scored 13 points, and had 9 rebounds, 6 steals, 3 assists and 2 blocked shots. “Even when we fell behind their points were coming off our mistakes. So when we got in the flow on offense we got rolling.”
Allen led the winners with 19, followed by Reed (14), Abrom (13), and Omari Harris (12).
Riverside was led by Justin Johnson with 13, Anthony Peak’s 12, and Isaiah Reddish and Jordan Riley with 10 each.