Green Hope’ s girls and boys opened the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A Basketball playoffs with first round wins in games where winning was a little more difficult than the final scores indicated.
Despite losing point guard Janasia Cannon for most of the game to fouls, Clayton’s girls (14-12) trailed the Falcons by just two points with two minutes left in the third quarter. Then Green Hope (25-3) went on a 14-0 run that led to a final winning margin of 58-35. Green Hope will host Hoggard in the second round.
Knightdale’s boys (14-12) cut a 20 point deficit in half and fought back to trail by 10 early in the fourth quarter, but Green Hope (23-5) earned a trip to New Hanover for a second round game by pulling away in the final minutes to win 80-59.
“Green Hope did some really good things against us,” Knightdale coach Anthony Byrd said. “They’re a tough team, better than I saw on film. They’ve got the opportunity to do something in this tournament.”
The Falcons next opportunity is against a New Hanover team that defeated Green Hope in the second round of the last year’s tournament.
“They beat us on the scoreboard and physically,” Green Hope coach John Green said of New Hanover. “Playing anyone in the playoffs is tough because they’re playing to keep their season alive. Knightdale made a run at us and made things difficult. Now we’ve got another tough one at New Hanover.”
Green is counting on his seniors as a team strength.
“Our senior leadership has been just great,” said Green, referring to Will Harkins, Alex Clinkscales, Josh McVeigh, Connor Sutton, and Brian Williams. “Plus we’ve got some talented younger players, like sophomores Josh Savino and P.J. Fenton.”
McVeigh, a 6-7 post player who is going to Marshall to play football, said, “After losing to New Hanover last year, it’s exciting to play them again. We’ve had a good season and everybody knows when you lose in the playoffs, the season’s over.”
Clinkscales led the winners with 20 points, followed by Harkins (18), and junior Ryan Shaffer (11).
Junior Jamel Morgan topped the Knights with 15 points , followed by senior Aaron Taylor (10).
Green Hope proved to be just too talented and too balanced or a young Clayton squad.
Sophomore Nia Washington (20 points), senior Rachel Argabright (11), and senior Kelly Fitzgerald (11) led the Falcons.
“It was really a game of two halves,” Green Hope coach Mike Robinson said. “We didn’t play well early, didn’t handle Clayton’s pressure very well and Clayton had a lot to do with that. We made some adjustments and played better in the second half. Once you get in the playoffs you just don’t know what will happen.”
Sophomore Asia Todd led the Comets with 12 points. Coach Marlon Lee started just one senior, Alexis Dixon.
“This is the first time in three years we were in the playoffs,” Lee said. “We forced turnovers early, but when Janasia got in foul trouble that dictated our game. But this was a good learning experience for us.”