Ah, the comforts of home in high school basketball. Not only does the rim seem a little bit friendlier and a few inches wider, but the flow of the game comes more naturally.
Holly Springs’ basketball teams can attest to sweet a home court can be.
On Friday, the girls started off the varsity portion of the night with a 67-35 win against visiting Fuquay-Varina. The boys followed with a 78-68 win, holding off Southwest Wake Athletic Conference rival Bengals.
The two Golden Hawks teams have combined to lose just three times at home this season – two of those coming to teams with one loss each. Both teams, with first-year head coaches, think they’re peaking at the right time.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
Holly Springs girls break away
Turning point: Holly Springs (14-3, 7-1) turned a 19-9 lead in the first quarter to a 42-17 lead at halftime. The rest of the game, coach Peace Shepard Easton substituted freely, allowing several backups to play extended minutes.
“I don’t like us coming out slow at all. Teams will try to slow us down,” Easton said. “We’ve got to come out strong and have our transition game early, create turnovers early, get a lead and – not coast, but get a high tempo going.”
Putting up numbers: Holly Springs’ balanced scoring attack was led by Caila Spruill’s 13 points (five steals) followed by Brianna Tate (11), Kelsey Holloway (nine), Malaika Kimmons (eight) and Samantha Weaver (six). All but two Hawks scored, and McKenna Cartin almost made it one had her shot after the buzzer counted.
“I’ve been off the last few games but (my teammates) kept pushing me to shoot and to play hard,” Spruill said.
Fuquay-Varina’s Amber Roberson led her team with 11 points and seven rebounds. Bengals (6-11, 1-7) coach Gail Siemer’s concerns are about a different number – 17 steals by Holly Springs.
“We had too many unforced turnovers,” Siemer said. “We just need to clean things up and take care of the ball.”
Highlight reel: With just a few seconds left until halftime, Holly Springs’ Vielka Barber (five points) dribbled around some Bengal defenders to the middle of the floor and released a buzzer-beating 3-pointer just inside the halfcourt line. She said her first option was to find Holloway.
“I saw an opportunity to turn and at least try to get up court to get the ball to Kelsey to get a more open shot,” Barber said.
Barber’s getting to be an expert at this. She’s now hit a buzzer-beater from around halfcourt three times in her career.
Unsung hero: Fuquay-Varina’s Kelley Suggs’ stat line – three points, five rebounds and four assists – doesn’t capture the job she did keeping the speedy Tate out of the lane in halfcourt sets. Tate scored almost entirely in transition and off turnovers.
Blount scores 30 for the boys
Putting up numbers: If Ryan Blount keeps this up he may never start again. The Holly Springs (9-8, 6-2) junior came off the bench for the second straight game and for the second straight game the Hawks won. His 30 points were a game-high and he had 18 of them at halftime.
Blount was benched earlier in the week for disciplinary reasons, and the team upset SWAC-leading Apex at home in overtime.
“I did mess up, so I knew I had to come off the bench. But I didn’t let that get to me,” Blount said of the Apex game. Fuquay-Varina “ran a zone and I’m a shooter and I love 3-pointers. They ran a (1-3-1) zone so I just started shooting.”
Jake Kelsey had 14 points on four 3-pointers for the Hawks, while Jordan Brown had 16 and eight rebounds.
For the Bengals, Amani Gill had 15, Trey Terry had 13, Grant Youngblood had 12 and Keegan Youngblood had 11.
Turning point: Fuquay-Varina (2-15, 1-7) led 19-18 after the first quarter and was down 42-32 at halftime. But when Holly Springs started getting defensive stops in the third quarter, the lead widened to almost 20.
The Bengals later chipped the lead to as little as eight, but the Hawks had given themselves enough cushion to sustain the lead.
“In the third quarter we limited their shots,” Holly Springs coach Richard Young said.
Out of bounds: Fuquay-Varina had just cut the lead to 10 in the fourth quarter when a player moved the ball after it came through the hoop. Already warned for delay of game, the Bengals earned a technical foul.
The rule isn’t seen often. Also, Strong had to spend the rest of the game seated the bench because the technical is not given to a player. Instead, it works like a technical on a coach.
Best quote: In the teams’ first meeting, Fuquay-Varina lost by 26 to Holly Springs. Coach Danny Strong says his rebuilding project is getting close to a breakthrough.
“This is the first time we fought all the way through against a talented team. We had a few easy mistakes, missed a few easy baskets that pretty much cost us the game,” Strong said. “Coming towards the second stretch (of conference play) here, I think we’re going to upset some teams and surprise some people.”
Strong is in his second year at Fuquay-Varina and he made note of some of the attitudes slowly changing over that time.
“I can see the fact that they are starting to get upset after games. Before it was like ‘Do you guys even care that we lost?’ But now they’re upset. That competitive edge is coming out,” Strong said.