Leesville Road scheduled what MaxPreps.com’s formula says is the toughest among the state’s public schools for reasons like Saturday night in the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A boys basketball playoffs.
Aftering having lost twice to Garner in the regular season, the Pride knew what it had to do.
Leesville Road walked out of the South Garner High gymnasium with a 63-60 win, the first road team to do that to the Trojans this season. The Pride will try to win its third straight road playoff game on Tuesday, when Leesville heads to Fayetteville’s Seventy-First High in the fourth round.
Garner had topped the 80-point mark in its first two playoff games, but Leesville slowed down the pace en route to a 34-25 halftime lead.
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“Our game plan tonight was just to execute our stuff. Let’s don’t get in transition. The first two times we played them, we felt like we were racing to 100 (points),” Leesville coach Russ Frazier said. “We didn’t want to get into a track meet, we wanted to play a basketball game. We wanted to keep the ball moving and keep it out of trap zones. We panicked a little late but we were able to hold on, recover.”
Leesville’s Jalen Benjamin was masterful at executing the plan. He had 15 points, while senior backcourt mate Alex Hunter added 13. Wing player D.J. Horne had 11, post player R.J. Wilson had 12 and Jonathan Mebane (eight) just missed out on givine the Pride five starters in double figures.
“We wanted to come in, stay under control, execute our plays and then get back on defense so they don’t run up the court,” Benjamin said. “Defensively, every time we missed a shot we had to haul back to the paint and get into our defense.”
Leesville also stayed in a zone the whole game, clogging the middle when Garner drove and daring the Trojans to hit from 3. Nothing went down for the normally sharp-shooting Trojans, and the Pride’s guards snapped up the long rebounds.
Garner shot just 10.5 percent (2 of 19) from 3.
“We just couldn’t get shots to drop,” Garner coach Eddie Gray said. “It was just one of those nights – high school basketball. I really felt like the winner of this game had a real good shot. They’ve got a complete team. They’ve got a good point guard, a good wing player, a good guy inside, so they’ve got a shot.”
Keyon Burt had 17 points for Garner and Alex Reed added 15. Demetric Horton was held to five.
Marque Maultsby kept Garner in the game with his defense, forcing five steals that led to four assists and a few breakaway points.
“We picked up the intensity on defense and made a run at them,” Gray said. “It was another great season. ... I just want to thank all of the people that are part of the Trojan Club, the administration and all the people who made it a special season for our guys.”
Garner had a chance to take the lead with just more than a minute left, down 61-60. But the shot misfired and the ball went out of bounds. Leesville’s Alex Hunter made two free throws with 1:02 left and no one scored after that.
Leesville took over with 23 seconds left, but Garner forced a turnover with 16 seconds to go. Garner missed two 3-pointers that would have sent the game to overtime.