FARMVILLE – A little more than 300 days after a scintillating Eastern 2A Finals contest, the boys’ basketball teams from Farmville Central and South Granville renewed acquaintances on Saturday in a nonconference matchup.
Had this been any other year, this game – which featured two of the state’s brightest college recruits in Farmville’s Terquavion Smith (N.C. State) and South Granville’s Bobby Pettiford (Louisville) – would have packed the Jaguars Den with 1,800 fans.
“It would have been lit up in here,” said Jags’ head coach Larry Williford.
But this year has been unlike any other, with the coronavirus disrupting athletics all across the country – including high schools.
So the Eastern Finals rematch from this past March – a thriller won 73-70 in overtime by the Jaguars – had to be played in front of just 25 fans in the stands this season.
Unlike the Eastern Finals, there wasn’t much drama this time around. While Smith (33 points, three dunks) and Pettiford (28 points) put on a show, it was the Jaguars who pulled away in the second quarter with solid defense and went on for a 95-83 victory to improve to 2-0 on the season.
“We are just excited to be playing again,” said Williford. “I know we put up 88 Friday night (a win over rival Greene Central), but we didn’t check off a lot of boxes as far as effort, execution and intensity. I thought tonight, the effort was there, execution was there and the intensity was there. If we can stay healthy and do those things, we have a pretty good basketball team.”
Much has changed since the last time the Jaguars stepped onto the court. While they won the Eastern Finals and advanced to the state title game against Shelby, COVID forced the North Carolina High School Athletic Association to postpone, then cancel, the state championship games – leaving the Jaguars (who also reached the finals in the girls’ bracket against Newton-Conover) as co-state champions followed by NCHSAA Board of Directors decision.
Uncertainty was the prevailing feeling over the next few months as teams began summer workouts and practices. Then the state came up with a plan to have prep sports in 2020-21, albeit with reduced schedules and (so far) the wearing of masks by athletes and coaches for competitions.
That includes basketball.
“I thought once we got into practice without any COVID issues, and with volleyball making it through the regular season … I think the state has pretty much decided they were going to try and get the seasons in,” Williford said. “The big thing about now is, if you want to go far in the playoffs, you have to be lucky as far as the COVID stuff. You just tell the guys to try to do the right thing, because it’s all luck of the draw. Something happens and a whole team can be quarantined.”
Smith and Leontae Moye had dunks in the first quarter as the Jaguars controlled the boards on their way to a 25-19 lead. But it was the second quarter that helped Farmville Central establish control it never lost.
A 13-0 run pushed the lead it 38-19 before the Vikings ended a drought with a basket. The visitors were able to cut the deficit to 10 before the Jags tallied seven of the next nine points to grab a 49-34 lead at halftime.
“We closed out on their guys that hit the first couple of 3s after the first four minutes, and that changed the whole complexion of the game,” Williford said. “Our rotations were crisper and they weren’t catching and shooting wide-open 3s.”
Farmville Central maintained its double-digit lead in the second half and stretched it to as many as 24 (87-63) before South Granville used a 21-7 run to close within nine (92-83) with 3:02 left.
“This was a big win for these guys, because they are trying to set their identity,” Williford said. “We graduated Justin Wright (a 2,000-point career scorer) and Samage Teel (a 1,000-point scorer) from our backcourt, so there were some holes to fill, and I thought Jayden Pitt was great, Dontavious (Short) was great defensively, Jah Short is going to be an all-star before it’s all said and done, and our big guys were big. DC (Derrick Cox) coming off the bench, Damon (Turnage) and Leontae…I thought it was a very collective team effort. Tee (Smith) draws so much attention that when the other guys were open, they put the ball in the basket.”
Moye had 17 points, Pitt added 15 and Rashae Owens chipped in eight for the Jaguars. Collin Tanner had 28 points for the Vikings while Kaleb Hedgepeth added 12.
Farmville Central opened the season with an 88-60 nonconference triumph at home over Greene Central on Friday.
Smith led the Jaguars with 26 points, followed by Dontavious Short with 15, Moye with 10, Cox with nine and Jah Short with eight.
Greene Central was led by Rayvon Moncrief with 18 points and Dontavious Pettaway with 17.
A 35-18 outburst in the second quarter helped Farmville extend a seven-point first quarter lead.
Girls’ game Farmville 80 South Granville 19
Farmville Central scored the first 12 points and never looked back as the Jaguars opened their season by dismantling South Granville.
Leading 24-8 after the first quarter, the Jaguars used solid defense and rebounding and a relentless offense to fuel a 14-0 run in the first four minutes of the second stanza to pull away. The Vikings managed just one basket and one free throw in the quarter, and a three-pointer by Janiya Foskey pushed it to 41 points (50-9) with 1:26 left in the first half.
The clock ran continuously in the second half, as Farmville Central’s lead grew bigger behind Foskey, Amiya Joyner, Journee McDaniel, Nakeria Phillips, Lauryn Pitt, Jordan Joyner and Kalyn Baker.
Amiya Joyner (18 points) and Foskey (15) paced the Jaguars. Baker and McDaniel had eight points each while Pitt, Phillips and Jordan Joyner chipped in seven each.
Farmville Central did not play its Friday game, as Greene Central’s lack of numbers have resulted in the Rams not fielding a team this season.