Jay Huff fulfilled the promise the made to last year’s seniors at Voyager Academy – in a big way – by producing a triple-double that led the Vikings to their first N.C. High Schools Athletics Association 1A basketball championship with a 69-56 victory Saturday over six-time NCHSAA finalist Winston-Salem Prep.
Huff, a 6-foot-11 senior destined for Virginia next year, recorded 14 points, 14 rebounds and 10 blocks on his way to earning the 1A final’s Most Valuable Player Award.
Collin Faucette scored 19 points for Voyager (32-4) and was named the team’s Most Outstanding Player in the championship game. Chance Greene added 13 points and a game-high five assists, while China Jones had 11 points for the Vikings.
“We weren’t all that great today, but these guys always find a way to win,” said Voyager head coach Mike Huff, Jay’s father.
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Voyager, a team with 11 seniors who never lost to a 1A school this year, closed its championship season with 17 straight wins.
Saturday's loss broke a string of 14 straight wins for Winston-Salem Prep (22-8), which had zero seniors in its starting lineup.
The Phoenix previously had won 1A championships in 2008, 2012-13-14 and lost in last year's final 73-70 to East Carteret on the same Carmichael Arena floor.
“I hate this arena,” Winston-Salem head coach Andre Gould said. “I love Reynolds Coliseum. Maybe they’ll finish that renovation in time for us to get back there for this game next year.”
Poor shooting haunted the Phoenix all afternoon, and they hit just 18 of 74 shots from the floor and were out-rebounded 52-37. The teams were even in rebounds, 22-22, at halftime, but Winston-Salem missed 27 of its first 36 shots as Voyager grabbed a 33-22 halftime lead.
“We could hear their coach at halftime, and we knew we were going to get a battle in the second half,” Mike Huff said.
Using a full-court press the entire game to force 29 Viking turnovers, the Phoenix fought back within 56-48 on a transition layup by Justice Goodloe with 3:56 remaining on the clock. Voyager iced the win by sinking seven of its last eight free throws.
Two players for Winston-Salem Prep fouled out trying to contain Voyager’s up-tempo offense, and the Phoenix committed 25 personal fouls total, while Voyager committed 21 and finished the game with four players carrying four fouls. Both teams drew technicals.
Zaire Williams, the game’s Most Outstanding Player for the Phoenix, scored 20 points and had a team-high eight rebounds before fouling out with 2 minutes, 13 seconds remaining. Going 5-for-17 from the field but 10-of-14 at the line, Williams was the lone Phoenix player to break double digits.
Huff picked up his fourth foul with 2:06 left in the game and left to a standing ovation with 1:11 on the clock, with the Vikings up 69-52 after he scored Voyager’s last two points on two free throws.
Sitting on the bench as the clock wound down, Huff thought about last year’s team, which had lost 66-62 in overtime to Pinetown’s Northside High in the East Regionals in Fayetteville.
“We promised last year’s seniors we were going to win this,” Jay Huff said. “We owed this to them. I was looking up at the clock and thinking ‘wow, we got it for them.”
Mike Huff said he wasn’t an emotional type, but Saturday was an exception after watching his 11 seniors finish their last game.
“I had some tears in my eyes,” the coach said. “I had to go sit down and just think about it for a minute. … It seems like just a minute since we first got together – and now here we are.”