With two of their top players – Kayshawn Marshall and Rod Demmons – out of action, the Greenbrier High School Wolfpack made a breakthrough Tuesday night.
Sparked by sophomore Justen Hartfield’s 25 points, the Wolfpack held off the host Grovetown Warriors to earn their first subregion victory of the year.
“We’re a team that’s been in a lot of games and lost games because of poise I feel like,” said Wolfpack head coach Casey Heckathorn. “Granted we still had a couple of areas to work on in there, there were a couple we gave away. We took a big step in that direction of learnng how to finish.”
The Warriors certainly didn’t make it easy, however.
The Wolfpack (9-10, 1-4 Region 2A-AAAAA) and Warriors (8-10, 1-4) set the theme for the night early when the Wolfpack jumped out to a 14-6 lead, just to see the Warriors outscore them 10-0 to take a 16-14 lead.
Twice more the Wolfpack would build leads of nine and eight points only to see the Warriors reel them back in. The teams were tied at 46 when the Wolfpack used a 12-3 run to lead 58-49 with 1:59 to play.
Hartfield led the run with eight points, all on driving layups to the hoop.
“Since our leading two scorers are gone, coach said if I see it, take it,” Hartfield said.
Like earlier, the Warriors weren’t finished. They had eight offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter and pounding the ball down low was paying off in the final two minutes. They were able to get to the free-throw-line 10 times in that span and sank six, cutting into the Wolfpack’s lead with the clock stopped.
After the Wolfpack missed the front end of two 1 and 1’s, Demetrius Middleton, who had three offensive rebounds in the quarter, put back a miss and the Warriors deficit was cut to 58-54 with 1:03 to play. The Warriors forced a five-second violation on the ensuing inbounds and Solomon Gause, who paced the Warriors with 22 points, was fouled and hit one of two free throws and the Warriors trailed 58-55 with 48 seconds remaining.
After trading free throws, the Wolfpack appeared to have put the game away for good when AJ Hawes (14 points) sank two free throws with 9.2 seconds left in the game to give them a 63-57 lead.
Kenny Joseph drilled a 3-pointer to make it 63-60 with 4.4 seconds to play, the Wolfpack missed two free throws but survived when Gause’s long 3-pointer bounced off the backboard as the buzzer sounded.
Middleton finished with 11 points and Ray Abraham chipped in with 10.
“I thought our team effort was very good,” said Warriors’ head coach Daniel Jordan. “I mean we pressed them at the end and it kind of got us back in the game. They made one adjustment on the press that gave them a bucket that was big.”