Falcons rout for their first title
BY JAKE KEATOR
The Daily Reflector
Saturday, March 16, 2019
RALEIGH — As the clock moved closer and closer to zeros Saturday afternoon in Reynolds Coliseum, the smiles on the faces of coaches and players for the South Central boys’ basketball team got wider and wider.
As the sound of the buzzer completed a lopsided contest, the 4-A East No. 3 seed Falcons sealed their first-ever state championship, 72-46, over West six-seed West Charlotte.
SC finished with a 30-1 record, the only loss in December to another nationally regarded Ranney (N.J.) team.
“Great day to be a Falcon,” South Central coach Chris Cherry said. “I’m extremely proud of my team for this outstanding accomplishment. It’s a credit to their work not only today, but all year long because this is something they deserve.”
After losses in the East Regional final the previous two seasons, the Falcons can finally enter their name into the North Carolina High School Athletic Association record book. The end of the game brought about a moment that left Cherry emotional as his players stormed the court in celebration.
“I can’t really describe it right now,” Cherry said. “Maybe I’ll be able to once I calm down a bit, but right now, I want to try to enjoy these guys as much as I can for the rest of the day.”
North Carolina Tar Heel commit Day’Ron Sharpe led the way with a game-high 23 points, 12 rebounds and five assists in front of his future coach, Roy Williams.
Sharpe, who charged SC’s 25-6 run to the start to the game, is a junior with one year remaining at the prep level. That is not the case for seniors Jahzeer Baker (18 points, four assists) and Shykeim Phillips (12 points, seven rebounds).
“It’s a great feeling for us,” Phillips said. “For me and Jahzeer as seniors, going out and getting a state ring is just a dream come true.”
Baker added that another factor played a key role in why this year’s Falcons were able to ascend to larger highs than previous teams. South Central lost the 3-A state championship in 2011 in its only other title game appearance.
“Chemistry,” Baker said. “That’s all it was. We’ve been playing together and been close for a long time. We all know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and use it to our advantage.”
SC will also graduate Cydney Williams, Shy’Quan Jones, Phillip Chen, Raquan Vann, Larry Lassiter and East Carolina football signee Jeremy Lewis. Williams was fourth on SC with seven points.
UNC’s Williams congratulated Cherry on the court following the victory.
“He was there?” Sharpe said when learning about Williams’ presence. “Was he for real? I didn’t know, I was just out playing my game. It’s crazy I didn’t notice.”
An outstanding Falcon effort on defense held West Charlotte (25-7) to a field goal percentage of 30 percent (18-for-60). The Falcons also held the Lions to 3-of-21 from 3-point range.
Florida State signee Patrick Williams heated up in the second half to finish with 18 points for the West squad. He entered the contest averaging 22.1 points per game.
“We just wanted to keep them out of transition,” Cherry said of his team’s game plan. “They are a fast and talented team, so we just wanted to keep them in front of us.”
Cherry added that he believes this year’s team was the most mentally tough he has ever coached.
“They are the toughest bunch I think I’ve coached,” he said. “They allow me to coach them every day. They are just a great bunch of kids every day and they got what they deserve.”
West Charlotte coach Jacoby Davis was not happy with his team’s shot selection.
“I think we rushed to our shots,” he said. “We didn’t really get to our second and third options. The goal was to get it inside to Pat (Williams) early and we didn’t do a good job at that. We just took some bad shots.”
After a fast-paced start, and attempting to keep the Falcons from pulling away early, the Lions couldn’t help but watch as Baker and Sharpe teamed up to help propel the Falcons to a 17-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.
“We didn’t run our offense today,” Davis said. “I think that was part of our struggles offensively, because that was the killer. I thought in the first half, even the first basket they made, a transition basket, they weren’t in their offense. I was telling the guys to calm down and that they were just getting easy buckets.
“If we could get a couple stops and get into our offense, we would be good. We just never got into it.”
Following the victory, a large portion of Reynolds was heard chanting “252,” a sign of pride and respect for the Pitt County area. Not all of the people chanting were wearing South Central red, as early arrivals of Farmville Central fans could be seen showing their support for another local squad.
The victory was not only important to the South Central team, but also its dedicated supporters.
“They have been with us since I arrived here,” Sharpe said. “Even though we fell those past two years back-to-back, we just did it for them.”
Sharpe will be the big name returning for his senior season next year, possibly pairing nicely down low with Howvante Hutcherson. Travon Ward looks to possibly become the next leader of the guard group in his final season.
Contact Jake Keator at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9594 and follow @JakeKeatorDR on Twitter.