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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

October 15, 2019

The Farmville Central volleyball team walked away celebrating a win and its seniors on senior night Tuesday after the Jaguars defeated Beddingfield 3-1 (24-26, 25-19, 25-14 and 25-19.

The night began with FC (12-7, 6-3) recognizing its four seniors, Abby Foster, Ja'Shyra Carmon, Keyley Shackleford…


October 15, 2019

Week 8 of the high school football season provided clarity in two local conferences as teams enter the meat of their conference schedules. D.H. Conley walked away with an overtime win over rival J.H. Rose, while Ayden-Grifton stumbled again against 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference leader Washington.…


October 12, 2019

After a lackluster first half, the Greene Central Rams scored four second-half touchdowns to beat South Lenoir 59-26 on homecoming night on Friday at Greene Central High School.

The Rams improve to 4-3 overall and 1-1 in the 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference, while the Blue Devils fall to 2-5 and 0-3…


October 12, 2019

After a 4-0 start, the last two weeks have not been ideal for Ayden-Grifton football.

The Chargers were doomed by five turnovers in a 37-12 loss to Washington on Friday. The Chargers (4-2, 0-2) were coming off of a 34-21 home loss to West Craven last week.

Paul Cornwell’s team has dealt with…


October 11, 2019

D.H. Conley and J.H. Rose found themselves tied at 28 following the end of regulation Friday night at Hollywood Crossroads, leading the two bitter rivals to sort it out in overtime.

The Vikings used four plays, capped off by an 8-yard pass from quarterback Nick Hamilton to Chance Brown to take the…


October 11, 2019

A longstanding rivalry between two major Pitt County squads provides major excitement this week in local high school football, as J.H. Rose and D.H. Conley meet once again for bragging rights. Check out that and other games for area teams in this weeks breakdown.

Ayden-Grifton (4-1, 0-1) at…


October 11, 2019

Ayden-Grifton clinched at least a share of it's third-straight 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference title Thursday night after defeating South Lenoir, 14-25, 25-8, 25-17 and 25-14.

It was also the third conference championship for head coach Linda Bryant, who revealed that 2019 may be her final season…


October 10, 2019

A late penalty called on D.H. Conley goalkeeper Conor Montanye proved to be the edge J.H. Rose needed in its 1-0 soccer victory over the Vikings on Thursday night, an outcome strangely similar to the rival high schools’ first meeting earlier in the season.

After a scoreless first half, J.H.…

October 09, 2019

The South Central continued its dominance of the 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference Tuesday night after defeating Southern Wayne, 25-7, 27-9 and 25-11.

Alleigh Johnson (7 service points, 2 aces, 2 blocks, 1 kill), Alli Ruffin (7 assists, 3 kills) and Grace Sweers (9 assists, 3 kills, 1 service…


October 09, 2019

There was plenty of pink on display Tuesday afternoon at J.H. Rose, as the girls tennis team hosted its annual Ball Drop event, raising over $2,500.

The 50/50 raffle raised money for Strides Against Breast Cancer of the American Cancer Society and the Liz Upton Student Scholarship Fund.

On hand was…

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