Prep boys fall short in state title game

Prep boys fall short in  state title game
March 19
00:00 2015
(Above: Photos by Craig T. Greenlee – WSP’s Keeshon Patrick (21) tries to pressure the inbound pass from East Carteret’s Trevor Willis.)

For the first time in five trips to the state basketball finals, Winston-Salem Prep ended up as the runner-up. In a back-and-forth contest that had the feel of a 12-round boxing match, the Phoenix suffered a 67-64 loss to East Carteret in the Class 1-A state championship game played at Carmichael Arena last week.

Entering the final, Winston-Salem Prep (20-8) had won three state titles in a row. This time, the script ended differently. East Carteret’s mini-armada of shooters converted enough shot attempts to avenge last year’s state title game loss to the Phoenix.  Ty Simmons, Sam Johnson, Jacque Brown and Brennan Lewis combined to score 62 points for the Mariners.

“People saw two evenly-matched teams go back-and-forth from start to finish,” said Coach Josh Gould of Prep. “Coming down the stretch, they made a few more plays than we did. There are no excuses. We did everything we could to win. But on this day, the better team came through.”

Neither team was able to fully impose its will on the other. The game featured eight ties and 17 lead changes. The largest lead for either team was 5 points. At different stretches of the game, fatigue was evident on both sides. The crowd of nearly 7,000 created an electric atmosphere worthy of a postseason setting.

“This was an intense game and the fans really got into it,” Kwa’Tre Hollingsworth said, who was voted Most Outstanding Player for Prep. “There were times when I got very tired, but I had to find a way to fight through it. This was a fun game to play in.”

Prep took the lead for the last time at 57-56 on Hollingsworth’s 3-pointer with 3:38 left to play in the fourth quarter. From that point on, Simmons scored a couple of baskets and Brown converted five free throws to account for 9 of the Mariner’s final 11 points.

The Phoenix, down 62-59 with 37 seconds left in the game, still had an opportunity to make a comeback. Hollingsworth launched a 3-pointer that would’ve tied the game, but his shot was off and the Mariners grabbed the rebound.

Prep pulled to within a basket at 63-61 on Daivien Williamson’s drive. But Johnson hit a pair of free throws and Simmons got free for an uncontested lay-up to put East Carteret up by 6 (67-61) with 12 seconds to go. Josh Gould hit a 3-pointer to account for Prep’s final points of the contest.

Hollingsworth led all scorers 25 points in his final game wearing a Prep uniform. Zaire Williams came close to posting a double-double with 9 points and nine rebounds.

For East Carteret (28-2), Brown delivered a virtuoso performance (17 points, seven rebounds and six assists) as the championship game MVP. Simmons contributed a team-high 23 points.

East Carteret issued some payback on Prep, who beat the Mariners in last year’s state final on Hollingsworth’s put-back with less than two seconds left to play. “After going through what they went through last year, we knew they’d be ready,” said Gould. “They’re a scrappy bunch that likes to compete. We didn’t give it (title) to them. They took from us what we wanted to keep.”

This season’s crew at Prep could be viewed as overachievers. Gould lost eight seniors from last season. It was a core group which won three straight state championships. Five of the eight are now playing college basketball. In contrast, this year’s group had three seniors who got a lot of playing time. The rest of the squad was comprised of freshmen and sophomores who got a lot of seasoning as varsity newbies.

“We’ll be back (to the state championship), I can promise you that,” Gould said. “If we don’t, it won’t be because we didn’t give it our best shot. We’ve established a culture here and we’re not going anywhere.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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