By Mark Robinson
In Greenbrier East’s Jerry Bradley Memorial Holiday Tournament, the East Boys team won the trophy, but only after Metrolina Christian Academy gave them a run for their money. Metrolina, from Charlotte, NC, led from the opening tap, all through the game, until East took the lead 63-60 with just over one minute remaining.
The opening tipoff turned in to a quick Metrolina score after only five seconds had elapsed, making it 2-0. That stretched to a 10-0 lead, at the 5:25 mark of the first quarter, when Caleb Ward opened the East scoring with a running layup. A three-pointer made it 13-2. By that point, the Warriors’ Tate Johnson was three for three in his shooting.
Evan Canterbury hit a three-pointer late in the quarter to make it 13-7, with 2:40 remaining. Ward hit another three a minute later, to make 15-10. Trading baskets to finish out the quarter, the score was 22-14 as the quarter closed.
The teams continued to battle back and forth, but Metrolina moved the ball well and made shots, as both teams stayed with an up-tempo game. With about four minutes remaining in the third quarter, Metrolina took a 16 point lead, 52-36, and then a Ward three-pointer slightly closed the gap, and the Spartans began their long comeback.
With a harassing defense outside, and by clogging the driving lanes inside, the Spartans shut down the Warriors’ scoring machine that had produced easy points earlier. By the end of the third quarter, the Spartans had closed the gap to five points, trailing 53-48. When Ward hit a layup to start the fourth quarter, it capped a 14-1 run to make the score 53-50.
With six minutes remaining in the game, the score was 57-52. Three minutes later, the margin had only been closed by one point, and the score was 60-56. Metrolina was pushing the fast break, but several times the East guards were able to strip the ball as the Warrior players were going up to shoot. But at the other end, East’s shots weren’t falling.
With 2:18 remaining, Karim Ezzedine hit a short jumper for East that tied the game, 60-60. The crowd noise dominated the gym. Then at 1:34, Evan Canterbury, alone in the right corner, buried a three-pointer that gave East the lead for good. At the buzzer, the Spartans held a 69-62 lead, and lifted the tournament trophy on the gym floor.
Ward led the Spartans with 23 points, and Ezzedine added 21. Ezzedine had 16 rebounds, and Seth Brown had seven assists.
Seth Brown commented, after the game, said, “In the first half, they smacked us in the mouth. They used a 1-2-2 trap. It worked well against us, they kept the ball out of the middle well. In the second half we calmed down, played with more intensity. They’re a great team.”
Jasiah Rawls said, “I don’t think we played well in the first half. We didn’t rebound well, didn’t do too well on the perimeter, so they got a lot of threes on us. At halftime coach told us we need to get Karim the ball on offense.”
Head Coach Jim Justice said, “We did a lot of growing up tonight, got a long way behind. I told them at halftime, we have the right stuff, if we’ll just not get impatient … let’s get it below seven, or eight. In the first half, we were just disoriented, they were playing really strong. We played really organized in the second half. It may not have looked like it, but we ran a lot of organized stuff, on both offense and defense, a lot of changes on defense.”