Harnett Central won the rubber match with visiting Union Pines 65-46 Monday in the first round of the Tri-County Six 3-A Conference boys basketball tournament.
“I thought that a big key was that we would penetrate and then dump it to the open guy,” said Harnett Central coach Will Gage. “We’ve done a good job this year doing that. I thought we were at our most effective when, if they missed, we rebounded and limited them to one shot. We still need to do a better job consistently getting back in transition. But for the most part, I thought we played hard.”
The Trojans (14-9) advance to Tuesday’s second round at Southern Lee to face Lee County (9-13) at 6 p.m. In addition to a spot in the tournament championship on the line, the game will also serve as a tiebreaker for the conference’s second automatic bid (regular-season champion Southern Lee claimed the first) to the 3-A state playoffs.
Chase Mullins had 14 points and Kasey Perkins had 10 to lead Central.
Adam Jackson and Kaizer Ray had eight points apiece. Montrey McAllister had seven points. Garrett Weis and Jaalan Signal had six points apiece. Jaden Meadows, Justin Perkins and Adonye Fubara had two points apiece.
“I thought that everybody that came in, came in ready to make a contribution,” Gage said. “Jaden Meadows came in and got a steal and a basket in the first half. Garrett Weis hit two big threes in the first half. We’ve said all along, we’re not going to have one guy hit 30, but we might have three guys hit 10. I think if we play hard defensively and unselfishly offensively, I think we’ve got a chance.”
Tyreek McCoy had 14 points and Cameron Williams had 12 to lead the Vikings (10-14).
With the Vikings holding an 8-6 lead in the first quarter, Jackson was fouled while shooting a three-pointer and sank all three ensuing free throws to start the Trojans on an 11-2 run.
Union Pines responded with a 10-2 run, which started in the first quarter and ended in the second, to regain the lead. But Ray scored to spark a 9-0 run to put Central in front for good.
With Central leading 42-27 late in the third, the Vikings went on a 12-2 run, with an Ahmad Jones three at the buzzer cutting the lead to 44-39 at the end of the third.
Central finished strong. Leading 48-43, the Trojans dominated the closing minutes with a 17-3 run to end the game.
Ray and Mullins’ presence underneath the basket on both ends of the floor was a big factor in the fourth quarter for Central.
“I thought the big thing was them looking for each other,” Gage said. “When you’ve got post guys that can play in tandem, I think it’s big.”