At the end of the game Coby White didn’t know how many more points he needed. His coach, Rob Salter, did.
In the final minutes of Greenfield’s 90-80 loss to Garner in the championship game of the David West Bracket of the John Wall Holiday Invitational, Salter encouraged his senior guard to keep shooting.
The final outcome was no longer in question – the Trojans never trailed after the first quarter – so Salter wanted his five-star guard to do something special. In fact most fans in sold-out Holliday Gym wanted to see White break the 27-year-old record. So White kept attacking the basket until he scored his 37th point to tie it with 20 seconds remaining in the game. White drew a foul on the play, so his 14th free throw gave him 38 points and the record. It didn’t mean much to White, who signed with North Carolina last month, since his Knights came up short.
“We were losing, nothing else really matters to me in that moment,” White said. “I wanted to win. It’s an honor to break the scoring record, but at that moment I don’t really care. At the end of the day we lost and all that scoring didn’t matter.”
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White finished with 41 points, giving him 119 points in three games at the John Wall Holiday Invitational. The previous record was 115 points set by Garner’s Donald Williams in 1990. Williams, like White, went on to play at North Carolina. Williams was coached by current Trojans head coach Eddie Gray, who wanted to protect the record of his former player. In the end, the Trojans got what they came for, a tournament title, and Gray joked about how they did a better job defending White this time around.
“We held him to 41, that’s pretty good,” Gray said in reference to White’s 46 points scored last month in the Millbrook Showcase against Garner. “We improved by five.”
White, who got some scoring help from classmate Elijah McCadden (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Jacari Outlaw (13 points), started the game with 10 points in the opening quarter, hitting four of his five shots, including back-to-back 3-pointers to end the quarter. He went cold in the second quarter, going 0-for-4 from the field, his only points coming on four free throws. At halftime he had 14 points, needing 24 to set the new mark. He took eight shots in the third, scoring 15 points after the break to make the record within reach with his future coach, Roy Williams, watching.
When White hit a free throw with 1:36 remaining in the game, he passed another former Tar Heel, Justin Jackson, for third on the top tournament scorers list. In the final 1:43, White scored nine points to write his name in the tournament record books.
He hit 12 of 24 shots from the field, 3 of 6 3-pointers and 14 of 18 free throws for his 41 points, giving him two 40-point games in three games. He opened the tournament with 46 points in a win over Kinston. That outburst tied him for fourth all-time with Anfernee Hardaway for top individual scoring games in tournament history.
Immediately word spread across the tournament that White, who also scored his 3,000th career-point on Saturday, was on pace to set a new three-day scoring mark. That’s not necessarily what he set out to do, but when it was within reach, Salter wanted his guard to go for it.
“Coach was telling me to score two points, and we were down by 10 and I was like ‘what is two points going to do?’ ” White explained. “Then our assistant coach told me I broke the scoring record. I knew how many I needed (coming into the game) but to be honest, I didn’t even think I was that close because I had missed so many layups.”
At the time it didn’t mean much to White, but after the game, it finally hit him what he had accomplished.
“It’s an honor,” White said. “It’s one of my greatest accomplishment. I just thank God for it, that he keeps blessing me with things like this.”