GARNER — Garner boys basketball coach Eddie Gray wasn’t pleased with his team’s attention to detail for much of the first quarter and a half of play at home against West Johnston Tuesday.
So Gray stirred the pot a bit by taking his starters out of the game to help them regain their focus while watching some of the bench players take control of the contest and help to change the momentum en route to a convincing 82-62 victory.
Jashaun Smith came off the bench to lead all Trojans with 17 points, while fellow reservist Nick Kuhns had nine important points in the first quarter to prevent Garner from falling behind.
“We didn’t come out very well on offense, we made some very poor decisions with our passes and we settled for shots we didn’t have to settle for,” Gray said. “We had some guys come off the bench that were more focused and we started to turn it around.”
What worked: Garner’s half-court trap in the third quarter helped blow the game wide open. After erasing an early West six-point lead to establish an 11-point advantage by halftime, the half court trap helped to create six West Johnston turnovers in a pivotal stretch in the third quarter that propelled the Trojans to outscoring their guests 33-19 in the period.
For West Johnston, it was Cameron Williams. The guard not only led the Wildcats with 17 points but also worked his way to grabbing eight rebounds despite the inches he was giving up in height to the Trojans’ front court.
The bench was also quite effective for both teams as the Garner reserves totaled 44 points in the contest while the Wildcats who came off the bench contributed 30 points.
“For the last couple games now, we’ve been going pretty deep,” West Johnston coach Kris Bennett said. “I’m proud of the team mentality.”
John Graham came off the bench and posted a big nine point, seven rebound night. Evan Black, Tyrone Jones-Benson and Alec Ketrow all had six points off the bench for the Wildcats as well.
Putting up numbers: Garner freshman guard Thomas Allen had all 14 of his points in the second half. Allen made good on four of five three-point attempts over the final 16 minutes of play.
Kyreece Mills added 12 points for the Trojans.
Silver lining: It was tough for West Johnston coach Kris Bennett to think of a lot of negative things to say about his team’s performance.
The Wildcats took it to the talented Garner team and held a 25-22 lead in the early stages of the second quarter before a classic 17-3 Garner run took control of the game.
“We fought hard against a great opponent all night long,” said Bennett. “Guys really gave up their bodies tonight taking charges and challenging kids at the rim. We did a lot of the things that we want to do with this program; I’m proud of the way the guys are playing.”
Going forward: For Garner to be successful this season, a young but talented back court will have to reign supreme.
“It’s a real fine line, we don’t really have a great post-presence on this team so our guards have to carry us,” said Gray. “They’re going to have some off-nights but generally speaking though, we have kids with very good attitudes.”
Best quote: Best quote: “You don’t get the technical fouls, I get all of the technical fouls!”
Coach Gray’s message to the bench after one of his players was assessed a technical foul.