Ronshad Allen-Shabazz has been tough for teams handle, and that was the case during Knightdale’s Greater Neuse River 4A opener Friday night at West Johnston.
Shabazz poured in 31 points, leading the Knights to a 64-40 romp over the Wildcats in the conference opener for both teams.
With the win, the Knights improved to 6-2 in their first season under former girls’ coach Anthony Byrd, while the Wildcats fell to 1-6. West has lost 21 straight games in conference play; the Wildcats’ last win over a conference was a 48-39 victory over Smithfield-Selma on Jan. 20, 2012.
Marcell Johnson and Shannon Jordan each chipped in 10 points for Knightdale.
“Ronshad is our go-to guy,” said Byrd, who had been the girls’ coach and then the JV boys’ coach before that. “Really, as he goes, our team goes.
“Marcell and Shannon both did a great job on the boards for us tonight. Right now, we’re undermanned and waiting for some guys to come back second semester. But right now, they’re exceeding my expectations. We won three ball games this week.”
West got a career-high 10 points from Tyrone Jones-Benson. Despite its rough road of late, West kept challenging until the final buzzer, as Knightdale won the second half by just one point, 25 to 24.
“I was real proud of our guys in the second half,” West coach Kris Bennett said. “We held them to six points in the third quarter, and it’s tough to hold that team to less than 15.
“I was happy that we played all the way to the buzzer. We’ve been in all our games until this, but we just haven’t put four quarters together. We can’t beat a really good team with one good half or one good quarter.”
Knightdale led 23-8 after the first period, a stanza in which Allen-Shabazz had a breakaway dunk, a 3-pointer and an alley-oop pass for a Jordan dunk.
“I’m still looking to develop my defense and rebounding,” said Allen-Shabazz, a 6-3 junior wing who said he already has five Division I offers. “Coach Byrd stresses defense and how offense comes off of it.”
Knightdale led 39-16 at halftime.
“We did a good job playing as a team,” said Johnson, who finished with nine rebounds. “We have a few things to work out in practice, but teamwork is key for us.
“We still need work on our chemistry. We need to play more as a team, pass the ball around and take good shots.”
West kept the margin from exploding by winning the third quarter 10-6.
“I listened to my coach before the game,” Jones-Benson said. “We wanted to get the Knightdale guys off their feet (on defense) and finish hard.
“We just tried hard. We didn’t give up. In the win we had over SSS a few days ago (57-50 on Dec. 3 in what is now a non-conference game), we didn’t quit when we were down and ended up beating them. It was good for us to see we could do that.”