The annual Nathan Gay Holiday Basketball Classic was the best show around this past weekend. This year it was hosted by Union High School.
Friday’s early matchups were the two girls games, East Duplin versus Tritan and Union against Lakewood.
East Duplin girls came out on top 55-31 and the Leopards devoured the Spartans, 63-15.
The boys played in the evening with the Triton Hawks stomping East Duplin 68-32 and Union slipping past Lakewood 41-34.
Saturday’s matchups started with the Union girls going against the Triton Lady Hawks. The Spartans played tough, but couldn’t get the ball to fall in the basket. Several unforced turnovers gave Triton the edge they needed to double the score by halftime, 21-10.
The Lady Spartans started the third quarter strong, creating a turnover and scoring off of it, but then missed two baskets in a row from outside the paint after pulling down hard-fought-for rebounds.
Union kept up the intensity, but couldn’t handle the full court pressure Triton used during the second half.
The score at the end of the third quarter was 37-20, and as the clock wound down, Triton walked away with the win, 55-31.
Top scorers for the Lady Hawks were Alexis Hobson, 11; Adaisha Harris, 8; Jamecia McNair, 7; and Jollen Davis, 6.
For the Spartans, Nadua McKenzie and Lauren Preddy each had 11 points; Eva Long scored 7; and Jasmine Becton scored 5 points.
The nail-biter of the night was the East Duplin/Lakewood girls championship that went into overtime.
In the first quarter, both teams were cold and for most of the eight minutes, the score was 10-5 with the Leopards in the lead. With about one minute left, the Panthers made a 3-point play by getting fouled on a lay-up and making the free throw to end the quarter 10-8. This was a picture of things to come.
About midway the second quarter, East Duplin took the lead for the first time, 15-16, and by halftime had extended it to 20-24. By the end of the third quarter the Panthers were up by 10 points, 39-29.
Despite point guard Brittney Boykin fouling out in the fourth quarter, the Leopards stayed in the game and hit the key shots that pulled the score tighter.
With 2:30 left in the game, Lakewood was within 5 points and at 1:44 the Panthers were only leading by 3 points, 51-48.
Lakewood started fouling and the Panthers made 2 of their next 4 free throws, but then Lakewood senior Bianca Moore iced a 3-pointer to put the Leopards within 2 points with 33 seconds left on the clock.
Leopard senior Tiesha Rich was fouled as she went in for a layup after a Panthers’ turnover and she calmly swished both free throws to tie the score at 53.
A long in-bound pass to the Panthers’ end of the court gave them an easy score to take a 2-point lead with 19 seconds left on the clock. The Leopards never stopped the hustle and at four seconds, Jache’ Servance got a clear view of the goal from just beyond the foul line and threw up a2-pointer to send the game into overtime at 55-all. The gym erupted.
Moore’s shooting hand got even hotter in overtime, sinking all the shots for the Leopards — three 3-pointers — to slip past the Panthers, 64-61.
Moore was top scorer for Lakewood with 17 points. She scored 14 of those points after the start of the fourth quarter and made five 3 pointers. Following right behind was Boykin with 16 points despite fouling out in the fourth.
Tiesha Rich scored 14 points; her sister, Tasha put in 7 points; Jache’ scored 6; Jakyra Braxton scored 2, and Justina Henry scored 2 points.
For East Duplin, Brittney Woodard was top scorer of the game with 19 points; Tenae McKinzie scored 16; and Makayla Byrd had 10 points.
The Leopards and the East Duplin Panthers squared off in the first Saturday boys’ game, with Lakewood coming out on top 76-61. The final score was no indication of how close the game was through the first three quarters, though.
The Panthers started the game off strong with a combination of fast breaks and 3-pointers to move into the lead and, with five minutes off the clock, the score was 22-7 in favor of East Duplin. Panther Malik Baker scored four 3- pointers in quick succession.
Lakewood woke up and went on an 8-2 tear to end the quarter with a score of 24-15.
The Leopards intensity stayed strong and with two minutes left in the first half, managed to take the lead for the first time with a 3-pointer from the corner by Ryan Emfinger to make the score 32-33. Two hard-fought defensive battles kept the Panthers from scoring on their next two possessions, while Leopard Patrick Rich put down a three and Emfinger got away on a fast break to lay in a soft dunk, making the score 38-32.
Before the half ended, East Duplin had found the goal again and moved ahead by 2 points to go into intermission with a 40-38 lead.
The third quarter was a back and forth battle with the Leopards coming out on top 55-54.
Lakewood boys took control of the game in the fourth quarter. Their full court press gave the Panthers a problem that enabled the Leopards to put 7 unanswered points on the board, bringing the score to 54-62 with 6:47 left in the game.
It was all defense for the next three minutes with Lakewood shutting down the Panthers and scoring 5 points to bring the score to 54-67.
East Duplin went to their full court offense, which the Leopards managed to outrun every time.
Leading scorer in the game was Leopard Mike Smith with 23 points. Other scorers for Lakewood were Emfinger with 19 points; Patrick Rich and Tristan Baucom with 8 points; Nikin Henry and Kevin Murphy, 6 each; and Domanick Williamson and Nick Butler each 3 points.
For the Panthers, Baker scored 14; Montell Stallings, 16; Nicholas Williams 12; Chris Scarborough, 9; and Florencio Laporte, 8 points.
The final game of the night was the boys championship between host team Union and Harnett County’s Triton High School.
The first half kept the fans on the edge of their seats, with the score going back and forth. They were tied 13-13 by the end of the first quarter.
Shooting on both sides took a turn for the worse at the beginning of the second quarter, with the ball rimming out of the goal more than it went in, and that was on both sides of the court. With five minutes left in the first half, both teams only got the basketball to fall once, 15-15.
The Hawks managed to take a slight lead into the locker room with a 23-26 score.
The second half was a different story. Triton came out hungry for the ball and created turnovers that resulted in baskets. By the end of the third quarter, the Hawks had moved ahead by 12 points, 28-40.
The Spartans came back strong in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t overcome the deficit. Triton took home the trophy with a score of 41-53.
Top scorers for the Hawks were brothers Maurice McBryde, with 14 points, and Krishawn McBryde, with 9 points; Alex Burnett, and Dedrick Stacker, both with 8 points; and A.J. Williams, with 7 points.
For the Spartans, Justin Smith was top scorer with 11 points; Brandon Lovett with 10; and Bakeem Murphy and Natron Banks, both with 7 points each.
The Nathan Gay Holiday tournament is held every year in honor and memory of long-time Union district teacher and coach Nathan Gay. His widow, Faye, was on hand to hand out the championship plaques to each team.