Isaiah Hicks is a hero on the way to becoming a legend in his hometown.
But unfortunately for his high school alma mater, the senior forward at North Carolina wasn’t much of a good-luck charm for J.F. Webb’s basketball teams on Wednesday night.
On a night when Hicks’ No. 4 jersey was retired, the Warriors were on the wrong end of a sweep from Warren County.
The visiting Eagles avenged their only loss of the season 47-39 in the girls’ game. Then in the boys’ contest after the ceremonies, the Eagles completed a season sweep of Webb for the first time in a long while in a 61-57 decision.
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But despite the setbacks on the scoreboard the main point of the evening was to honor Hicks, who was AP state player of the year when he led the Warriors to the state 3A title in his senior season in 2013 and was named the ACC’s Sixth Man of the Year last season.
His No. 4 joined the No. 33 of Taron Downey, who finished at Webb in 1999 and went on to a solid career at Wake Forest, as the Warriors’ only retired basketball numbers. A large portion of the crowd was wearing T-shirts saluting the occasion.
“It’s great to come back and see that this many people are still supporting me,” said Hicks, who was honored not only for his basketball exploits but for his steady academic performance as well as community service that inspired the loved ones of Meghan Bunn, a young cancer survivor that Hicks and his teammates had befriended five years ago when she was 10. “I remember a lot of good times we had and especially the state championship. It was great to see so many people who had cheered for us before.”
A tribute from Meghan’s mother Christy was a part of the ceremony, which included a visit from Mack Lyon and Bryan Smith, who were Hicks’ senior teammates on the state championship team.
Hicks’ parents Thomas and Regina were present, as well as all but one of his siblings – he said his other brother is working overseas.
“From the highlights you can see how he made me a good coach that year,” Webb coach Leo Brunelli said of Hicks. “We had been working on this for several months to get all the schedules together. I was touched by a lot of things in the ceremony, but that’s just who he is. It was a really special night for us. We wanted it to be first-class. I wish we were winning more, but I love this year’s team.”
Webb, a member of the Big 8 3A, fell to 2-11 with the loss in the boys’ contest. Warren County, which belongs to the Northern Carolina 2A, is 10-3.
Thomas Miles had 23 points to lead Warren County to the victory.
The Eagles led 52-38 after three quarters, but went scoreless for the first 6:14 of the final period to turn it into a nail-biter.
“It feels good to beat them on a night when they were honoring one of their greats,” Warren County’s first-year head coach Derryl Britt said. “It was good to get a win in front of this huge crowd. We have a lot of kids who haven’t been in situations like this very much.”
Kendell Baskett led the hosts with 19 points, followed by Shurone Harris with 11 and Shaddarrius Wilkerson with 10.
“Webb was fired up, but we did a good job staying composed,” Miles said. “After we got the lead we were able to hold our confidence. We knew we had to do it to win.”
The Eagles had won their earlier matchup 57-50 on Dec. 29 at the Southern Vance Classic. Webb had beaten the Eagles 12 straight times before that loss.
“I think we’re better than we showed tonight,” Baskett said. “The ceremony was great. I don’t really like Carolina, but we all support Isaiah. That’s my boy right there. I’m praying he’s in the (NBA) next year.”
Darauna Davis led the way with 19 points, hitting a trio of 3-pointers to start the third quarter as the Eagles pulled away down the stretch.
Sha’Da Bullock added 11 points for Warren County (13-1), which avenged its only loss of the year.
“We played together as a team tonight and played hard from start to finish,” said Warren County coach Shannon Jones, whose team ended a slide of three straight losses in the series. “I think we were hyped up since we had lost to them before, and the girls just refused to lose this game.”
The Warriors (7-5) had won their earlier matchup 39-37 on Dec. 29 at the Southern Vance Classic.
Webb coach Mike Rotolo had been the boys’ coach at Southern Vance during Hicks’ Webb career.
“We always tried to come up with a game plan to stop him, but there is no such thing in high school,” Rotolo said. “And he was surrounded by some really nice players.”
He continued: “I think we were caught up in the moment a little bit tonight. They usually don’t play in front of this many people.”