High School Sports

Knightdale bounces defending champ Apex from playoffs

Knightdale's Akeem Tate (center) shoots while defended by Apex's Jon Jones (left) and Davis Dupree (11) during the NCHSAA 4A second round boys basketball game between the Knightdale Knights and the Apex Cougars in Apex on Monday, March 2, 2015. Knightdale won 83-69.
Knightdale's Akeem Tate (center) shoots while defended by Apex's Jon Jones (left) and Davis Dupree (11) during the NCHSAA 4A second round boys basketball game between the Knightdale Knights and the Apex Cougars in Apex on Monday, March 2, 2015. Knightdale won 83-69. newsobserver.com

Anthony Byrd returned to his alma mater’s gym for the first time as a coach and led his Knightdale boys’ basketball team to an 83-69 victory to eliminate Apex, the 2014 state 4A boys’ champion.

The Knights hit their first four 3-point field-goal attempts and five of six en route to the second-round win in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs Monday night in front of a full house.

“I didn’t want to come here and lose this game, so I feel pretty good about it,” said Byrd, a 1980 Apex graduate who went on to play at Georgia Tech. “But I do have a little bit mixed feelings to come back to Apex and win against Apex.

“Apex has a great history, and we knew it would be a tough game. The 3s were falling for us early, and we played a great game.”

Knightdale, seeded No. 10 in the East and No. 11 in the N&O rankings, improved to 19-6 with its fourth straight victory. Apex, the No. 9 seed and ranked No. 10, managed to defend its Southwest Wake Athletic 4A title this season and finished 17-9.

The Knights scored 29 points in the first quarter and 49 by halftime to finish with nine 3-pointers – all during the first half. Four players hit 3-pointers in the balanced attack. Daquan Lilly and Akeem Tate scored 14 points each and Dondre Griffin added 10.

“They were hitting everything, but you can’t give up 49 points in the first half,” Apex coach David Neal said. “But we battled back in the second half. I’m really proud of my team and what they were able to accomplish this year as conference champs.”

Ian Boyd, a 6-foot-3 junior, led Apex with 31 points.

Knightdale also won with its depth. Nine Knights scored as their reserves outscored Apex 39-6.

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