West Caldwellâ€™s Stoney Polite was anything but in 79-59 victory over East Lincoln in the No. 2 Sectional Final in the 2A State Basketball Playoffs.
Polite poured in a game-high 28 points, made three 3-pointers and was 9-for-10 from the charity stripe in helping head coach Danny Anderson claim his sixth sectional crown in the past 10 years.
â€œHeâ€™s a good player. He can shoot and he can beat you off the dribble. Most people in high school try to penetrate and go all the way, but heâ€™s more mature. Heâ€™ll pull up, so you canâ€™t take a charge,â€ East Lincoln senior Jamelle Lowery, who had 17 points, said. â€œHis penetration and outside shooting, well the whole teamâ€™s outside shooting really hurt us tonight,â€ he added.
Anderson was extremely pleased with his 5-foot-10 seniorâ€™s play, believing part of what makes Pilot so good is his unselfish nature.
â€œStoney doesnâ€™t care if he doesnâ€™t score the next night. Itâ€™s whatever the game gives him and Iâ€™m just really proud of him for that, but everything we do is a team effort,â€ he said.
Pilotâ€™s running mate Tyrone Dula finished complemented him with 18 points.
After leading by just six points (17-11) at the end of the first quarter, the Warriors connected on seven of their first eight shots in building a 36-23 lead, capped by Dula 3-pointer just inside three minutes before the half.
In reaching next weekâ€™s regionals to be played in Winston Salem, the Warriors nailed six 3-pointers in the first half, leaving Mustangs head coach Neil Hodges scratching his head.
â€œI donâ€™t know what it was, but we werenâ€™t there defensively. We gave them a lot of open shot. They kind of did with the ball what they wanted to do with it,â€ he said. â€œThey have great shooters. I talked with Coach (Anderson) and he said it was probably their best game of the year,â€ he added.
As the two teamâ€™s emerged from the locker room, it was West Caldwell who played with a sense of urgency instead of the Mustangs, who trailed 41-29. Polite scored five points and Dula added a layup as the Warriors extended their lead to 48-29 with 6:10 left in the third quarter.
That was before senior Trishtan Johnson, who picked up his third foul halfway through the second quarter, caught fire. The 6-foot-long range assassin drained four straight 3-pointers, whittling the lead to 51-43 with 2:20 to play in the third.
â€œWe knew theyâ€™re very good players (Johnson and Lowery) and you know you got to play well when you play good players. Youâ€™re not going to be a bad team with bad players and be here. I thought our kids did a good job, but they still made some big buckets,â€ Anderson said.
Unfortunately for the Mustangs faithful, who made the trip to Hickory High School, that was as close as they would be able to come.
Brandon Dula earned three the hard way, and after a Lowery layup, a Polite layup pushed the advantage back to 11 with the final stanza to play.
While Hodges couldnâ€™t pinpoint exactly why his team lacked the type of in your jersey defense, they played against Hibriten, the Warriors didnâ€™t have the same problem.
With an aggressive 2-3 zone, Mustang penetration was limited and open shots were hard to come by.
â€œI thought that was the key. I felt like, coming into this game, that you want to get your kids involved early and not sit back and be passive,â€ Anderson said. Thatâ€™s a good team and I think that may have been the difference early. Weâ€™re fortunate it worked,â€ he added.
The Warriors out shot the Mustangs 60-percent to 40-percent and went 23-of-28 from the charity stripe. East, on the other hand, had a 2-for-10 stretch to open up the final quarter.
â€œTodayâ€™s contest belonged to West Caldwell. They were the better team. We congratulate them. We did not play our best game and when you get at this point you got to play your best game,â€ Hodges said. â€œIf we wouldâ€™ve been on our best game, it wouldâ€™ve been a better game, but the day belonged to them. We tried to generate some energy, but just couldnâ€™t do it,â€ he added.
by John Mark Brooks