This football town has been struck by a madness that dots the basketball landscape across the country each March.
But this basketball madness isn’t of the college variety, it’s of the high school kind. And it will reach a level it has never seen this week as Garner High School plays in its first high boys basketball state championship game in state history on Saturday against Charlotte Ardrey Kell in the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill.
“Garner’s a great town and I think we’re becoming a basketball town,” said Garner graduate and head basketball coach Eddie Gray. “This community has gotten behind this team so much. We play in front of great crowds.
“There’s no question that Garner’s a town that loves its school and its young people.”
On Saturday, the Trojans (26-1) defeated fellow Triangle area power Millbrook, the only team to beat Garner this season, 84-81, in the NCHSAA 4A Eastern Regional Championship to advance to the title game.
Before the game, the town hosted a send off breakfast attended by Mayor Ronnie Williams among others.
“It means a whole lot to our community and our team,” said senior point guard and team co-captain Julius Barnes. “The support we’ve gotten from everyone really drives us.”
Garner’s players will spend the week getting ready for the state championship game and their chance to join the 1987 football, 1978 baseball and girls basketball teams and 1950s girls basketball teams (who were the state’s best but didn’t have a state championship to play for) as the most remembered in school history.
“We’ve had this potential,” said Garner junior forward Nick Kuhns. “We’ve been a team that’s stayed together and worked together well. We fought through the challenges to get here.”
Path to the title
▪ The state title game begins at 7:30 p.m. in Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Tickets are $10 at the door or $9 from the school.
▪ To find out how Garner managed to get to the championship tilt for the first time, see page 6A.