Gwyn’s 3-pointer propels Phoenix to state finals

Gwyn’s 3-pointer propels Phoenix to state finals
March 10
00:00 2016
Photo by Craig T. Greenlee
Zaire Williams of Prep rises above the crowd to grab a rebound during the Class 1-A West Region championship game.



On a basketball court, it seems that Chaz Gwyn has yet to encounter a moment that’s too big for him to handle. The freshman guard answered the call by hitting a 3-pointer with time running out to give Winston-Salem Prep a 63-60 victory over Denver Lincoln Charter in the Class 1-A west regional championship at Joel Coliseum last Saturday. Gwen’s late game rescue puts his school in the state title game for the fifth straight year.

The Phoenix (22-7), looking to win its fifth state crown in eight years, will play Durham Voyager Academy at Carmichael Auditorium at UNC-Chapel Hill on Saturday at 2:30pm.

“Lincoln Charter did a heck of a job opening us up and spreading the floor,” said coach Andre Gould of Prep. “In the first half, I was really disappointed about how we guarded. I couldn’t be more proud of this group. “We exorcised some of our demons at the Coliseum. For some reason, we shoot the worst when we play here. But we just dug deep and figured out how to get this [regional] championship done. Now, we got to go on to the state championship. We’ll be ready, I can promise you that.”

Gwyn, who has emerged as a prime-time scorer in recent weeks, failed to reach double digits and finished with nine points. Even though he shot blanks in the first half, he compensated nicely with three 3s in the second half, which included the game winner.

With the score tied at 60 and just under 12 seconds left to play, Gwyn took a pass from Justice Goodloe and promptly buried the decisive shot from 28 feet out.

“I knew it was good as soon as it left my hand,” said Gwyn, who has played on three national-championship teams with the CP3 All-Stars. “I try to keep myself prepared to take the shot in a big game like this.”

During a time-out in the closing seconds, Gould drew up a play that gave his team three scoring options. The first choice was to get the ball inside to Zaire Williams, who had ruled the paint all game long. If Williams wasn’t open, Goodloe had the green light to attack the basket, or drive the lane and make a kick-out pass to Gwyn.

As the play unfolded, Goodloe noticed that Williams was well-covered. But he also realized that Gwyn had enough space on the right wing to receive his pass and take the shot.

“We had Zaire down on the low block, so they had to pick their poison,” said Gould. “They didn’t know if it was going to be Zaire on the inside, or Justice turning the corner, or Chaz sliding away [to an open area]. We wanted to put No. 11 [Lavonte Knox] in a position where he had to make a tough decision.”

Prep’s defense and scoring balance helped set the stage for the comeback. Williams finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds and Daivien Williamson added 12 points. Goodloe contributed 11 points and five assists.

Kendrick Edwards came off the bench to deliver huge boost at both ends of the floor. Edwards had nine points and six boards. But equally important was his perimeter defense.

The Phoenix trailed 29-20 at the half, and appeared to be in trouble. Edwards led an intense defensive effort that helped Prep gain some much needed momentum. By the end of the third quarter, the game was tied at 44.

“Kendrick has done that for us all year,” said Gould. “But we do have others who have come through for us on different nights. We just figure out how to survive and advance.”

Aside from defense, Prep got back in contention thanks to a solid effort on the boards. The Phoenix held a huge rebound-ing advantage (38-23). On the other hand, woeful free-throw shooting (8-for-23) could come back to haunt Gould’s team.

“We can’t afford to miss so many foul shots,” said Gould. “If we wind up missing 15 free throws in the championship game, we are going to lose. At this stage of the season, you have to take advantage of everything.”

Lincoln Charter (29-4) entered the regional final as a virtual scoring machine. The Eagles had averaged 89.7 points through the first four games of the state playoffs. Koby Shubert and Knox combined to score 19 of Lincoln Charter’s 29 first-half points.

Shubert delivered a game-high 19 points in defeat. Knox added 16 points and Logan Foster scored 10.

“We knew that Prep would come out in the second half and go to 11 [Williams],” said coach Bradley Gabriel of Lincoln Charter. “But we didn’t know that 14 [Gwyn] was going to have a career night in the second half. The kid hit a very tough shot at the very end. So, you just have to tip your hat to them. This game was a testament to just how good these two teams are.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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