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Basketball is widely regarded as a tournament sport.
In that vein, when the lights came on and it was time for high school teams from The Wilson Times readership area to prove their mettle in postseason play, success was found.
None was greater than the bounty obtained by the Greenfield School boys. With a mixed cast of newcomers and former role players thrust into the spotlight by the graduation of future NBA draft pick Coby White, the Knights claimed their first North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A championship since 2006.
Elsewhere, teams engaged in deep postseason runs. The Wilson Christian girls won 24 games and played for the North Carolina Christian School Association 2-A championship.
Greene Central, led by UNC Wilmington signee Imajae Dodd, the 2018-19 Wilson Times All-Area Boys Player of the Year, reached the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2-A East final one year after reaching a state championship game for the first time in school history. The Rams, who fell to eventual champion Farmville Central, were led by first-year head coach and Greene Central legend Theodore “Blue” Edwards, who played at East Carolina and in the NBA for a decade.
From the No. 25 seed, the Southern Nash boys reached the third round of the playoffs, while the Greenfield girls won a pair of playoff games to advance into the NCISAA 1-A quarterfinals. The Hunt girls won the third conference championship in school history, winning back to back Big East titles 34 years removed from its first league crown in 1985.
Head coach Tiffany Parks and her team set a school record for wins in a 22-4 season, won the Farris & Farris Holiday Tournament and made the third round of the playoffs, losing to eventual state champion Southeast Guilford.
The Firebirds weren’t the only team to bust a bracket. Hunt’s boys, with veteran head coach Dwight Taylor back in the fold after a two-year absence, picked up its defensive intensity and posted a 15-10 record. As the No. 24 seed, Hunt went on the road and knocked off No. 9 Wilmington New Hanover in the first round.
SouthWest Edgecombe finished above .500 at 15-14 under Shelton Langley and pulled off the biggest first-round upset. The Cougars as the No. 25 seed, thumped No. 8 Southwest Onslow in the opening round.
Of the 26 area teams eligible to compete in postseason play in their respective associations, 18 qualified for postseason play. Fifteen teams had records of .500 or better, and of the 18 playoff qualifiers, 14 won at least one game.
With seasons on the line, flashing that kind of success doesn’t come without performers rising to meet the challenge. As such, those faces can be found in the 12 boys and 12 girls selected for the 2018-19 Wilson Times All-Area Team. Thirteen of the 24 selections are first-time picks, with two players — Dodd and SouthWest Edgecombe junior Bailey Davis — presenting as three-time selections. Davis, a zone-buster extraordinaire for the NCHSAA’s all-time girls basketball wins leader in Sandra Langley, has an opportunity to join the elite four-year All-Area club with another standout campaign in 2019-20.
The composition and deliberations for the boys roster proved especially rigorous.
Hounded by transfer rumors entering his senior season, Dodd remained in Snow Hill and finished carving out a legacy that had Edwards touting his one-year pupil as the best player in school history. Indeed, Dodd was the cornerstone of a nucleus that brought the Rams from the depths of North Carolina high school basketball into one of its highlight attractions.
Dodd averaged 14.9 points per game to go along with 8.2 rebounds, and was a constant triple-double threat with his ability to challenge offensive players at the rim, averaging over five blocks per contest. He could dominate on the low block or step out and threaten a defense with the 12-15 foot jump shot.
If Greenfield juniors Trey Pittman and Jacari Outlaw were the returning role players that took on clear leadership responsibilities in the “A.C.” (After Coby) era, then junior Creighton Lebo was the steady new addition on a Greenfield team that set a new single-season record for wins in a 33-4 campaign.
Lebo, the son of a coach in former Auburn and East Carolina head man Jeff Lebo, played his junior season like basketball was in his genes. After transferring over from Greenville Rose, Lebo led the Knights in scoring at 18 points per game, pulled down six rebounds per contest and shot 85% from the free-throw line. Lebo was dangerous from 3-point range, making 42% of his shots from distance.
Outlaw was second on Greenfield’s roster with 16 points per game and pulled down an average of 5.2 rebounds. He expanded his game in a pair of key areas — from the foul line and the 3-point line — as Outlaw stretched defensed to the tune of 40% from long range. Fouling him in end-of-game situations wasn’t ideal as a junior, as he made 75% from the line.
Pittman, a 6-foot-7 forward, molded himself into not only a rugged defender a rebounder, but another threat on a Knights roster that could step out and shoot the basketball. While Pittman led Greenfield in rebounding at seven boards per game, he shot the 3-pointer at a 35% clip en route to averaging 14 points per outing. PIttman’s defense shined in one of the season’s most pivotal moments for Greenfield, as his charge taken in the final seconds of the 1-A title game gave the ball back to Greenfield in its eventual 68-67 win over Fayetteville Northwood Temple.
Fike, which went 18-10 and beat Southern Nash in the Big East tournament for the second and final automatic playoff bid from the league, placed senior Elijahwon Cooper and junior Moses Parker on the All-Area team. Both are repeat selections.
Cooper was unfazed by the chaos of late-game situations from his point guard spot, leading Fike in scoring at 16 points per game and adding 4.8 rebounds. Down low, Parker, a 6-4 power forward, bucketed 13.9 points per outing and led the Golden Demons in rebounding at 7.1 points per game.
At Community Christian, reclassified junior Jimmy Forte had little trouble translating a high volume into leading CCS in scoring at 30.7 points per game and adding 7.1 rebounds. But while Forte shot the basketball at a high rate, he also led the Cyclones, who finished 15-12 and lost in the first round of the NCISAA 1-A postseason, with 7.1 assists per contest.
May, a repeat All-Area selection, was a big reason why the Warriors returned to competitive basketball in his senior season. The 6-4 forward averaged a double-double of 11.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.
Senior Darius Edmundson, a speed threat on the football field as well as the track, harnessed that energy on the court into being named the Big East’s Player of the Year. A guard with a relentless attacking mentality, Edmundson led the Firebirds in scoring at 15.9 points per game, rebounding at 8.7 boards per game and generated an average of 2.1 steals.
A team that valued protecting the ball in the final few possessions, the Firebirds finished 16-10 and used Edmundson’s ball handling and free-throw shooting to close out games.
SouthWest Edgecombe junior Keishon Porter, a long and rangy wide receiver on the football field, has translated that ability into his first All-Area selection. With a license to play above the rim and explode off the dribble, Porter led the Cougars in both scoring at 19.3 points per game and rebounding, pulling down an average of 6.4 rebounds per game.
Led in part by senior Tyronne Whitaker, Wilson Prep reached the 20-win plateau in its second season of varsity competition. Whitaker, a point guard, averaged 19.9 points and had three steals per contest.
In just his junior year, Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf’s Jeremiah Deans has become a scoring machine. Deans, a second-team All-District 3 selection by North Carolina Basketball Coaches Association, poured in 48 points in a loss to Barney Williamson Gymnasium tenant Community Christian.
Hunt junior Bria Griffith, the 2019 Wilson Times All-Area Girls Player of the Year and the Eddie Summerlin Most Valuable Player of the 2018 Farris & Farris Holiday Tournament, was the offensive and defensive fulcrum for the Lady Warriors.
Griffith led or tied for the lead in four different categories for Hunt, leading the way with 15.8 points per game. She led the team with 6.3 rebounds and handed out an average of 3.7 assists. Griffith also tied with junior teammate Imani Sutton for the Hunt lead in steals at 2.2 thefts per outing.
Sutton, who expanded her offensive offerings during the Big East tournament on the way to garnering tournament MVP honors, averaged 13.8 points per game and yanked down five rebounds.
Senior Tatiana Smith, a streaky 3-point shooter and finisher on the fast break, averaged 10.8 points per game for Hunt. The entire trio are returners to the All-Area rolls.
A 20-win season for SouthWest Edgecombe was sparked offensively by Davis, who led the way with 15.9 points per game. Davis was credited with shooting 42% from beyond the 3-point line.
Sophomore Jada Battle, already a repeat selection for the Lady Cougars, distributed the ball with precision in Langley’s offense. Battle added 14.4 points, handed out an average of 7.1 assists and compiled 5.1 steals per game.
Fike, which finished 13-12, placed a pair of first-time picks in senior Jah’Asia Pernell and junior Brikayla Whitaker.
Pernell, adding additional pieces to her all-around game, averaged 12 points per game and seven rebound. Whitaker, in directing Fike’s offense upon the graduation of Jada Lee, added 10.4 points per contest.
Beddingfield junior Makayla Everette, also a repeat All-Area selection, checks in as the 2018-19 2-A Eastern Plains Conference Player of the Year. In a 5-18 season where the Lady Bruins struggled to put together much in the way of consistency, Everette’s ability to score and rebound inside provided a sense of stability as long as she remained on the floor and out of foul trouble.
At the start of the season, questions abounded as to whether the Greenfield girls would have the numbers to complete the season. But by the end, junior point guard Kaelyn Wall, now a two-time All-Area selection, had emerged as a leader on both ends of the floor in a 14-8 season.
North Johnston, which finished 14-11 overall, placed senior guard Jordyn Scott.
Hailed as the defensive leader of the Lady Panthers by head coach Jay Poole, Scott led the team with 16.8 points and 6.2 steals per game. While doubling her scoring output from a season ago, she made 75% of her foul shots and made opposing defenses respect the 3-point shot with 25 makes from distance.
Wilson Prep’s second varsity season was a success, as the Lady Tigers went 21-2 and reached the semifinals of the Carolina Athletic Association for Schools of Choice tournament.
Junior point guard Trinity Mobley averaged a double-double of 19.5 points and 10.3 steals as Wilson Prep excelled in an up-tempo style that turned opponents over. Providing second-chance opportunities in bunches was senior Jadore Lucas-Barnes, who also averaged a double-double at 10.9 points and 11.7 rebounds per game.