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KEATOR: Future is bright in Pitt County

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Farmville Central players congratulate junior Justin Wright (5) on winning Most Valuable Player for the 2-A state championship Saturday in Reynolds Coliseum.

Keator Mugshot.JPG

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 jkeator@reflector.com, 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.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

High Schools

April 18, 2019

Farmville Central basketball star Dy’Quavis Wilkins had plenty of reasons to celebrate Wednesday, as he signed his letter of intent to join NCAA Division II powerhouse Tusculum (Tenn.) University on his 19th birthday.

Wilkins, a 6-foot-6, 175-pound forward, won a 2-A state title in his…


April 18, 2019

Farmville Central softball catcher Sydney Wade has played a big role for the Jaguars in her three seasons. The talented junior is the team’s go-to player behind the plate thanks to her quick reactions and powerful arm. Preps beat writer Jake Keator spoke with Wade about what it takes to…


April 16, 2019

Farmville Central pitcher Abby Foster tossed a five-inning no-hitter as the Jaguars cruised to a 16-1 softball win over North Pitt on Tuesday night in Farmville.

The win snapped a two-game losing streak, both of which came a the hands of North Johnston last week.

Entering the third inning with a 3-…


April 14, 2019

UCLA again proved its billing as the No. 1-ranked college baseball team in the country with a sweep of No. 8 East Carolina in Los Angeles, completing the sweep late Saturday night with a 3-0 win over ECU.

The third game was the only in the series in which the Pirates (25-10), who were held to four…


April 12, 2019

Greene Central football is left looking for a new head coach after Allen Wooten announced on Friday he is leaving to become the new coach at perennial powerhouse Havelock High School.

As head coach of the Rams, he posted a 39-34 record and his team never missed the playoffs in his tenure. Now,…

April 11, 2019

A single by Noah Link that scored Josh McCarter proved to be the game-winning run on Thursday night, as D.H. Conley baseball wrapped up a season sweep of rival J.H. Rose at Guy Smith Stadium, 5-4, in 10 innings. 

“Both teams played really well tonight,” DHC head coach Jason Mills…


April 11, 2019

Ayden-Grifton senior Blake McLawhorn has held several titles in his high school athletic career, with quarterback and third baseman being the most prominent. Preps beat writer Jake Keator spoke with McLawhorn about his time as a Charger and the skills he has learned. 

Q: Playing third base…


April 10, 2019

Brandon Benfield’s grand slam home run in the third inning against South Lenoir Wednesday night pushed Ayden-Grifton to a 15-10 win in a critical game in the 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference.

Trailing 5-4, the Chargers (11-5, 6-1) were looking to continue to keep their offense moving. Looking…


April 07, 2019

The ECU women's tennis team extended its winning streak to 20 in a row as the Pirates swept Richmond, 4-0, on Saturday afternoon.

ECU (20-2) has won 20 games in a single season for the first time in program history, having topped out at 19 victories in both the 2006 and 2007 seasons.

The Pirates…

April 07, 2019

North Carolina commit and South Central big man Day’Ron Sharpe continued to make waves across the country and show why he is rising as one of the most exciting players at the preps level right now.

Sharpe, who is 6-foot-10, finished his junior campaign with averages of 15.9 points, 9.8…

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