KEATOR: Future is bright in Pitt County
By Jake Keator
The Daily Reflector
Monday, March 18, 2019
Pitt County has firmly placed itself as one of the premier locations in tradition-rich North Carolina for high school basketball. Just take a look at the three teams that competed for state championships Saturday night.
South Central brought in an exciting team with a mix of youth and experience. We may have seen the end of seniors such as Shykeim Phillips and Jahzeer Baker as Falcons, but I have no doubts that they will be playing at the next level very shortly.
And while that pair may be graduating, South Central will return one of the most exciting big men in the state — possibly country — in Day’Ron Sharpe/.
Coach Chris Cherry and his staff helped send out his seniors on top, which understandably was an emotional moment.
A team that fell to the same type of Raleigh-based opponents for two straight seasons proved to everyone — including those who determined the North Carolina High School Athletic Association seedings and had the Falcons third in the 4-A East bracket — that it was not just better, but miles ahead of anyone in the Triangle this season.
Shift the focus over to the entire community of Farmville, which had four programs finish with undefeated regular seasons. From the middle school up to the varsity girls and boys, no one lost. That is just a feat you won’t find anywhere else.
The girls’ team may have fallen just short in its 2-A final game Saturday, but coach Hollis Harper has a very young roster that is filled with talent. The Jaguars will lose a very talented shooter in outgoing senior Zion Shepard, but they will return two fantastic forwards in Ja’Shyra Carmon and Amiya Joyner, a freshman this year.
Joyner was a blast to watch in her first season. I had plenty of different writers and others who had the chance to watch her give me the same look and say, ‘She’s only a freshman?’
I had the same response every time: ‘Yes, it’s crazy right?’
The rest of that roster will now have a large portion of juniors, bringing another year of experience to a team we should all expect to continue its deep runs for the next several seasons.
Farmville’s boys and coach Larry Williford may have been the most consistent shooting team I’ve ever seen. They too hold a young roster, highlighted by N.C. State commit Terquavion Smith, who looked right a home winning a title at Reynolds Coliseum to end his sophomore season in fitting style.
The boys may not be as young as their female counterparts, but returning Smith, next-year seniors Justin Wright and Samage Teel and rising junior Leonte Moye keeps the core of what Williford created this season intact.
Outside of the trio that competed for state titles, the future also looks bright elsewhere in the county. Moses Tufts had a stellar first year with Ayden-Grifton’s boys, and Kent Gilbert at D.H. Conley looked to fit right in with the Vikings in his midseason arrival.
While North Pitt’s girls didn’t get the chance to fight for another state title, I believe they feel confident in returning star shooter Ashanti Hines.
The J.H. Rose programs struggled this season, but a bright spot was freshman Aaron Murphy averaging nearly 10 points per game (9.5).
I also can’t go without mentioning the lone squad in the Reflector coverage area outside of Pitt County, Greene Central. They will lose a lot of talent to graduation, including Rams’ stalwart Imajae Dodd, but they will return names such as B.J. Corbitt and Kentrell Suggs, guys who are familiar with fellow local legend and coach Blue Edwards’ system and expectations that he implemented in his first season. Their first run under Edwards ended in the 2-A East final against unbeaten Farmville Central.
I couldn’t have asked for a better first season covering local basketball. Coming in as someone who wasn’t very familiar with the landscape of local hoops, these teams sure opened my eyes to the amount of talent and dedication to the game that lies all around eastern N.C.
Hearing fans chant “252, 252, 252 …” after the Falcons won the 4-A championship was something special. These weren’t all SC fans either, including Farmville fans who arrived to take in the entirety of the day’s events before their squads took the court at night.
Eastern North Carolina is the best. It has the best rivalries, the best coaches, the best players, and as proven Saturday, the best teams.
Contact Jake Keator at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9594 and follow @JakeKeatorDR on Twitter.
D.H. Conley 14, New Bern 0
Lauren Wiles was the winning pitcher in Conley’s shutout, posting nine strikeouts and allowing four hits in the victory.
Triples were hit by Anna Sawyer (3-for-3) and Carson Fleming. Lexi Phillips went 1-for-1 with a two-run home run.
D.H. Conley 10, New Bern 3
Mitchell Hofler pitched the final 2.1 innings and recorded five strikeouts to complete Conley’s victory in which its pitchers held the Bears to three total hits.
Styler Cross, Noah Link and Shea Ward each posted two hits for DHC.
Ayden Grifton 6
South Lenoir 0
Austin Jones’ complete game shutout at South Lenoir included nine strikeouts by the A-G pitcher.
The Chargers helped Jones with a four-run fifth inning. Jordan Atkinson finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
North East Carolina Prep 4
Teach totaled 15 RBIs in this rout, including three RBIs by Nick Jones. Ryan Ange was 3-for-4 and Harrison Hardee 4-for-4.