High School Sports

State championship notebook: Cary boys basketball believes it’s a ‘team of destiny’

Gensler's 3-pointer beats Garner at the buzzer

VIDEO: Cary's Cory Gensler hits a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Imps by Garner 71-69 in overtime to win the NCHSAA 4A boys eastern regional championship. The game was played Saturday, March 5, 2016, at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville.
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VIDEO: Cary's Cory Gensler hits a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Imps by Garner 71-69 in overtime to win the NCHSAA 4A boys eastern regional championship. The game was played Saturday, March 5, 2016, at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville.

During Monday’s state basketball championship press conference, Cary coach Allan Gustafson Jr. mentioned how former N.C. State coach Jim Valvano believed the final few minutes of each half was crucial to winning and losing.

Valvano’s 1983 Wolfpack team that won the national championship pulled out several games in the final seconds of the NCAA tournament – including an upset of No. 1 Houston in the title game – that earned the label, “team of destiny.”

Are Gustafson’s Cary Imps a team of destiny?

“Yes,” Gustafson said with a smile.

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Gustafson called it a “magical season,” one that’s been extended with comeback victories against New Hanover and Garner in the state 4A boys playoffs. After the rally against New Hanover, Gustafson compiled a book of tweets, texts and emails from fans who congratulated his team. The first entry was a text that simply said, “Team of destiny.”

Cary High boy's basketball coach Allen Gustafson describes what the journey has been like for his team and what he told his team before overtime in their win over Garner High Saturday.

He showed it to the team as the Imps traveled to Fayetteville to play Garner in the East final, a game won on Cory Gensler’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

“After the game Saturday, I turned to Dwain Baker and said, ‘Team of destiny,’” Gustafson said. “That shot was destiny. That shot has been worked on, practiced and prepared for those type of opportunities. But at the same time, – ‘team of destiny.’”

To fulfill the destiny, the Imps (31-10 will have to overcome a 31-1 Charlotte Catholic team on Saturday that hasn’t lost since Feb. 9. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Dean Smith Center.

Millbrook facing tall odds: One look at Northwest Guilford’s roster had Millbrook coach Chris East worried.

“I know I got scared when I saw their height of the girls: 6-4, 6-2 6-0, (6-0),” East said. “I know they have solid guard play, and those guards don’t make mistakes. We have to play a really good game to come out with a victory on Saturday.”

East considers his Wildcats (29-2) the underdog against the unbeaten Vikings (30-0), calling coach Melissa Joyner’s offense “one of the best-run” he’s seen. Millbrook hasn’t lost to a team from North Carolina this season, losing only to a team from Georgia and a team from South Carolina during a tournament in Myrtle Beach in December.

Game time is 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Smith Center.

Prophecy fulfilled for Voyager: Voyager Academy coach Mike Huff watched Winston-Salem Prep play in the boys 1A state title game last year and figured his Vikings (31-4) may have a showdown with the Phoenix (22-7) for this year’s championship.

“They’ve got guards who can put a lot of pressure on you, offensively and defensively, they run some good sets,” Huff said. “They know what this is all about; they’ve been here. I’m sure after last year, they don’t want to walk out with that disappointment they felt last year.

“They’re going to fight like crazy. We’re going to have to fight like crazy, keep our composure and remember that it’s still a basketball game. We need to do the things we do and not try to do the things special or different because it’s the state championship.”

Winston-Salem Prep is playing in its fifth consecutive championship game. Tipoff is 2:30 p.m. at Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill.

Assistant Bowden leads North Pitt to title game: North Pitt is in a unique situation as the Panthers (29-1) play East Davidson (30-1) in the girls 2A state title game this Saturday at noon at the Smith Center. Head coach Neal Carr was suspended in February, with assistant Yolanda Bowden leading the team through the conference tournament and the state playoffs.

Bowden, in fact, has never served as a head coach before, but North Pitt has cruised to the championship game, winning by an average of 16.2 points in the state tournament.

“I knew it’s something I had to do,” Bowden said. “I had to step up, as well as the girls had to step up to get here. This has been an experience for me, as well as the girls. They’ve responded to me well because I’ve been with them the entire season. We already started to bond, and through this, it’s brought us even closer.”

Unbeatens battle for 2A boys title: A pair of unbeaten teams, Farmville Central (27-0) and East Lincoln (28-0), meet in Smith Center in the 2A boys title game Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at the Smith Center. The Mustangs, led by brothers Sage and Chazz Surratt, remind Farmville Central coach Larry Williford of tough Kinston teams of the past.

“You’ve got another kid, (Hayden) Duggins, who’s scored 1,000 career points,” Williford said. “That’s hard to do in high school. They’re very talented and share the basketball extremely well. They’re probably very similar to Farmville Central: They’ve played together for a long time. Should be a special day on Saturday, and we look forward to the challenge.”

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