Final’s loss sends Prep’s boys back to the drawing board

Final’s loss sends Prep’s boys back to the drawing board
March 17
00:00 2016
Photo by Craig T. Greenlee
Daivien Williamson of Prep attempts to get a clean shot against the Voyager Academy interior defense.



In the aftermath of Winston-Salem Prep’s decisive loss in the boys’ Class 1-A state championship game, Andre Gould refused to make excuses.

As painful as this might sound to die-hard Phoenix followers, their favorite team succumbed to an opponent who was superior on that day. Prep lost convincingly to Durham Voyager Academy 69-56 in the finals played last Saturday at UNC’s Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill. Prep, which had visions of winning its fifth state crown in eight years, had a nightmarish experience shooting the basketball. For the game, Gould’s crew went 18-of-74 from the field and 17-of-32 from the free-throw line. Although the Phoenix forced 29 Voyager turnovers, it wasn’t nearly enough to compensate for missing 56 shot attempts.

“Voyager Academy was better than us today –period,” said Gould, whose team finished its season at 22-8.  “Overall, I didn’t think our guards played up to par. If you don’t hit shots, I don’t care who you are, you are not going to win championships. And if you don’t take care of the small things, like hitting free throws, then what do you expect?”

A prime figure in Prep’s downfall was 6-11 center Jay Huff, who has reportedly signed with Virginia. Huff, voted the championship game MVP, single-handedly changed the flow of the game with14 points, 14 rebounds and 10 blocked shots.

There was a first-quarter sequence involving Huff which proved to be a bad omen for Gould’s squad. Midway through the quarter, Prep’s Zaire Williams, a 6-7 power for-ward, grabbed three offensive rebounds in a row and Huff made clean blocks of all three of Williams’ put-back attempts.

Williams, the only Prep player to score in double figures, delivered a game-high 20 points and grabbed a team-high 8 rebounds. Huff’s early blocks seemed to set a tone for the rest of the game. The lanes became a “no-go zone” and the Phoenix couldn’t find the rim (24.3 percent from the field). Williams, in the meantime, didn’t have his usual shooting proficiency (5-of-17 for 29.4 percent).

“Jay Huff is a skilled player and he’s special,” said Gould. “I don’t know how many blocks he had. If you ask me, he probably had 40, that’s the way it looked. We can’t point fingers at anybody. The referees told us they were going to let us play and I’m OK with that because we like to be physical.”

As dominant as Huff was, he got ample assistance. Collin Faucette scored 19 points on 7-of-9 field goal shooting, which included three 3-pointers. Chance Greene followed up with 13 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists and China Jones contributed 11 points and 9 boards.

Voyager (32-4) took the lead with 3:47 left in the first quarter on a Nelson White free throw. From that point on, the Vikings kept the Phoenix at a distance.

Prep narrowed the mar-gin to 37-31 on a pair of Williams’ foul shots with 3:32 to go in the third quarter, but could get no closer.

“When we cut it (deficit) to six, we forced three turnovers in a row and missed three lay-ups,” said Gould. “You can’t put that on the big boy because he was trailing (on those plays). We made a couple of runs, but then we had some bone-headed lapses. When you’re playing a good team like Voyager that’s been together for four years, they’re going to carve you up.”

Even though Prep has lost back-to-back state finals, the future is far from bleak. A core group of nine players return, which should bode well for next season. Given recent history, Gould expects his team to come back hungrier than ever to make amends for falling short of their goal to win it all. He sees no need to rely on mantras and witty sayings to fuel the competitive fires of his returning players.

“There is nothing that I should have to say,” Gould said. “When they show up in my gym next year for pre-season workouts, or whenever, they know the beast is going to come out. We are living witnesses that if you don’t take care of the little things, you’re going to be sitting in second place. Voyager Academy beat us at what we like to do best. So, we’ve got to go back to the drawing board.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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