Chris Barnette made three critical second-half baskets in Ravenscroft’s third HighschoolOT.com Holiday Invitational championship a week ago.
Each of those 3-pointers added to the 60-54 victory over the previously unbeaten Fayetteville Terry Sanford, the defending 3A champs. Barnette’s triple in the third put Ravenscroft within two, while one in the fourth gave his team a lead.
But Barnette’s and his team’s explanation was pretty simple: He was open.
“I think we’re extremely confident in our ability to shoot the ball,” he said. “We got open looks, we fired them away and hoped for the best. We have confidence in each other.”
As early as 6:30 a.m., the team is in the gym, “putting up shots.”
They put them up over the summer.
They did the same for the duration of the tournament.
A plethora of good shooters is just one facet of what coach Kevin Billerman called a “really good basketball team.”
“I’ve repeated this often: we have skilled players,” he said. “We work to get open shots. When you’re open, shoot it. You can ask these guys how many times in practice I’ve stopped practice and said, ‘You’ve got an open shot, and then you dribble into traffic. Why? Shoot the ball.’ ”
In the first quarter of their championship-clinching victory over Terry Sanford, Ravenscroft had missed only four to their opponents’ 12.
The Ravens shot 51 percent from the floor in the final game, while the Bulldogs managed 32. It was Ravenscroft’s best shooting percentage of the tournament, making 20 of 39 shots on the night.
Tyler Williams can shoot it. Douglas Elks can shoot it. We have guys that can really shoot the ball.
Ravenscroft boys’ basketball coach Kevin Billerman
The key for this group has been confidence – confidence in each other and to take what’s open, even if it’s a split-second window.
With Sanford’s man pressuring Barnette for each of his second-half 3s, the Ravenscroft sophomore had to time the execution near perfectly.
“My teammates, Mike (Okauru), Ian (Dubose) and I think it was Tyler (Williams) once, they did a good job of attacking the gaps and getting open shots for me,” said Barnette, who finished with a team-high 16 points against Sanford. “I was in rhythm, so I took it.”
Ravenscroft’s savvy shot selection throughout the matchup helped lift it to a win, too. It had 13 assists.
Billerman said he was recently stopped by a Ravens fan in a Harris Teeter grocery store and commended on the team’s unselfishness.
“People have always said that about our school,” Billerman said. “We’re not a very big school, but we work pretty hard at being good at basketball. Chris is open tonight, knock it down Chris. Mike is open tomorrow, knock it down Mike. Ian’s open the next day? Knock it down, Ian. I think it’s just so cool for us to come in and play ... the 4A schools and 3A state champion and win the thing.”
Okauru won MVP honors, scoring 46 points over the course of the tournament. But it wasn’t just his scoring, since so many Ravens can put the ball in. Williams, for example, led the Voyager Academy win with 19 points.
Okauru’s well-rounded effort made him stand out. With Sanford battling back in the fourth quarter, the junior point guard saved a ball that led to an extra possession for his team, resulting in a seven-point lead with 2:54 showing.
“It’s just mental toughness,” Okauru said. “With that play ... I’m just on my toes looking for the ball.”
Ravenscroft will host High Point’s Wesleyan Christian Academy on Tuesday. Wesleyan fell to Arlington Country Day out of Jacksonville, Fla., in the HighschoolOT.com race.
Especially after taking the crown in the holiday invitational, Billerman said without a doubt the Ravens will improve.
“If we can continue to get stronger and continue to work our skills, we’ll be really good,” he said. “We play some really talented teams, but they’ve got to cover us, too.
“I think the future looks bright.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan