The Harnett Central boys basketball team hung tight for three quarters, until East Wake’s Josh Siler got the hot hand.
The senior guard became the closer for the Warriors, scoring 11 points in the opening minutes of the final quarter to help seal the win for East Wake, 70-47.
“He hit some big shots in the fourth quarter,” East Wake coach Gerald Melton said of Siler. “He struggled early but those first two shots he took were a sign of the moment, being able to block out what’s going on around him and settling down. He’s a great shooter; he struggled early but sticks with it.”
Siler was quiet prior to the fourth quarter, only scoring two points and shooting 1-for-3 from the field.
“My thoughts were just to stay positive and I knew that the next one was going to fall,” Siler said. “We played good, we played as a team, and we didn’t give up when they were making a run.”
East Wake (16-5, 10-3 Greater Neuse River 4A) led by just three points entering the final frame, but Harnett Central’s hopes for a comeback were instantly crushed when Siler buried back-to-back 3-pointers.
A jumper and third bucket from downtown by Siler essentially sealed the win for East Wake. The Warriors’ tight zone defense went on to allow a mere six points from the Trojan offense in the fourth quarter.
“I thought we ran out of steam in the fourth quarter,” said Harnett Central coach Will Gage. “I thought we held on for the majority of the game. We went through a drought in the period where they were scoring, and they pulled away at the end.
“I don’t think you’ll find the score nearly as indicative of the type of game that it was.”
Harnett Central (9-13, 3-10) created a closer game than expected in the first three quarters. While the Warriors dealt with the distractions of senior night and their upcoming matchup against rival Knightdale, the Trojans attacked with potent guard play.
Guards McNeill and Anthony Stanton led the Trojans in scoring with 14 points each.
Though East Wake took an early advantage in the game, Harnett Central counterattacked. In the second quarter, the Trojans went on a 13-5 run to bring the game within a point. Central’s run came with the help of sharpshooters Kahlil Dixon and Jay McNeill, who buried two 3-pointers each in the first half. The pair combined for 15 of the team’s 19 points at the break.
Harnett Central continued to play aggressively with its guards in the third quarter, holding East Wake’s lead to a minimum. Senior forward Quincy Jackson kept the Warriors ahead by creating opportunities on both ends of the floor, primarily through his rebounding ability, as he often created second chance scoring opportunities by fighting for boards in the paint.
Siler led East Wake in scoring with 13 points. Jackson and senior power forward Ja’mel Coles followed with 12 points each.
With the win, the Warriors remained in second place in the conference ahead of Knightdale entering a season finale matchup between the rival teams on Friday.