Ending the regular season on a three-game losing streak to PAC-6 Conference opponents, the Cardinal Gibbons boys’ basketball team needed to reboot its mindset heading into the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs.
In the first round, No. 16 Gibbons jumped out to a quick lead and never lost its grip on over No. 18 Ashley, outscoring the Eagles from Carolina Beach 31-12 in the second half en route to a 67-39 win and more importantly, a third chance to knock off rival No. 4 East Chapel Hill.
The Wildcats downed the Crusaders in both of the teams’ first two meetings, including an overtime win at home; however, Gibbons senior Jake Reid could see that working in his team’s favor.
“We learned with Jordan that it’s hard to beat a team three times,” he said. “We went 2-0 and with them and then they beat us the third time and hopefully that applies with East Chapel Hill.”
Reid and seven other seniors have extra motivation – the last game they play will be their last in green and gold.
“It’s very important for me and it’s very important for the other seven seniors on the team,” Reid said. “This is the best year we’ve had in a while so it’s a big deal to take advantage this year.”
For coach Jim Ryan, the game plan is simple: Come out of the gates rolling and then suffocate the Wildcats’ offense and capitalize on extra opportunities.
“We play 10 guys and the reason is it does take a lot of effort to get out in front of the passing lanes,” Ryan said, “and that can be demoralizing.”
Gibbons had a satisfactory shooting effort against the Eagles, but it was the quick hands of Alex Kuzy and prowess on the offensive boards from Ody Oguama that pushed the Crusaders.
“We got a lead and just pushed it out and pushed it out,” Ryan said.
Not only will it be the final chance for the Crusaders to beat the Wildcats this year, it’ll be the last time ever as PAC-6 foes as the conference will dissolve at this end of this school year.
“We want to go out with a bang and we want to own that conference,” Reid said. “I think they got lucky at home last time and we’re ready for their crowd. We’re ready.”