Jags claim second title in four seasons
BY JAKE KEATOR
The Daily Reflector
Saturday, March 16, 2019
RALEIGH — Standing at the free throw line with his team leading Forest Hills by almost 20 points on Saturday night in Reynolds Coliseum, Farmville Central star Justin Wright knew he and his team were just minutes away from their second state championship in four seasons.
Wright hit both of his free throws, which was followed by a roar from the crowd as head coach Larry Williford urged the large FC contingent of fans and students to increase the noise even further.
The crowd answered, as a packed FC student section responded with chants of “Larry, Larry, Larry ...,” a nod of respect for their head coach and athletic director who then soaked in Farmville’s 86-71 victory for the 2-A title. The Jaguars also won in 2016.
“This isn’t about me,” Williford said. “This is about these guys and the others in the locker room who busted their butts, some of them since June.”
Farmville’s boys are state champs 86-71!! pic.twitter.com/FU3RX0tlXp— Jake Keator-Daily Reflector Sports (@JakeKeatorDR) March 17, 2019
The Yellow Jackets came out swinging to start the game, leading 10-2 before Wright (23 points, eight rebounds, six assists) began his takeover of the entire night.
“These guys really stepped up,” Williford said. “They were a little shaky early, but I pulled them in during the first media timeout and told them, ‘Do what we’ve done all year long.’” We can’t reinvent the wheel in the championship game.
“We started to keep the ball hot and moving, and the baskets started going in.”
Wright was the leader for the Jaguars for the entirety of the first half, with Terquavion Smith (22 points, three steals, two assists) and Samage Teel (eight points, one assist, two steals, two blocks) beginning their own fury of 3-pointers at the start of the third quarter. While he was proud of his entire team, Williford gave extra praise to a different starter.
“Samage did a great job handling the pressure,” Williford said. “Justin was hitting shots, he got it going on. Dyquavis was probably the unsung hero of the game. Anywhere else he would probably be averaging 25 or 30 points, but he’s here and averaging 10. He’s a real glue guy for us.”
Three seniors ended their careers as state champions: Wilkins, Rande Harper and Joshua Baker.
“It feels good,” Wilkins said. “I’m just glad I made the decision to come and create a relationship with the team and go hard in practice. In the end, we were undefeated and champions.”
Forest Hills coach Matt Sides gave credit to the Jaguars for their quickness and ability to run the floor.
“Hats off to Farmville Central,” Sides said. “I thought they were really good tonight, and we knew they were really good. They made some tough shots and they responded to our runs really really well. I thought we had a hard time keeping them out of transition early. We couldn’t get back early on and that fueled their run.”
Sides also heaped praise onto Wright, who took over in the second quarter with consecutive and-one buckets. After each basket, Wright was yelling, expressing even more how he could not be stopped.
“It felt good (being in the run),” Wright said. “It just felt like everything I was shooting was going in, and I loved the support the crowd gave me.”
In the arena was N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts, who kept an eye on NCSU verbal commit and top priority Smith.
“It felt good,” Smith said of playing in Reynolds. “I love N.C. State and I love the environment and atmosphere here.”
Smith added that he spoke with Keatts prior to the start of the game.
“I got to talk to him a little bit,” Smith said. “He just told me to keep playing hard and to give it my all.”
Williford was quick to make a joke about the sophomore guard and his interactions with Keatts.
“I guess that’s why he was nervous (before the game),” Williford joked. “Every time after they talk, the first three or four minutes of the game are a little shaky.”
The community of Farmville ends with three undefeated seasons — Farmville Middle, FC’s junior varsity program and the Jaguar boys. FC’s girls finished as state runner-up.
“I would like to think we’ve developed a culture at Farmville Central where guys come in and are excited about being student-athletes and playing for Farmville Central,” Williford said. “Farmville is unique, the middle school is almost on the same campus. Our middle school team was undefeated, our JV program was undefeated, we were undefeated. I have a couple guys who were ball boys for me when they were younger. I just can’t say enough about all the hard work these guys put in to win a state title.”
Contact Jake Keator at email@example.com, 252-329-9594 and follow @JakeKeatorDR on Twitter.