J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Mike D’Antoni. Randy Moss. Tamar Slay. Jerry West. When hoops stars like that have come from your neck of the woods, you better be prepared to bring your A-game.
That’s exactly what the South side did on Friday night, when the determined and gritty underdogs knocked off the North in the North-South Basketball Classic, 91-82 at the South Charleston Community Center.
“This is a great, great feeling,” former Webster County star Brett Morris said following the game. “We had some great guys on this squad. It’s a fun game, and we came out on top.”
“The coaches had written on our board in the locker room 24-6. They said the South was 24-6. We weren’t about to let it go to 24-7,” Tug Valley’s Mikey Newsome said.
The victory wasn’t always a sure thing for the south, however.
Heading into the half, the North led 41-39, powered by the West Virginia Sportswriters Association’s Player of the Year, Donte Grantham.
That’s when George Washington’s Luke Eddy took over, leading the South on an 11-0 run to open the second frame and scoring 12 points in the first five minutes.
The North never regained the lead.
“It was a great experience,” Eddy, who will continue his career at Elon University, said after the game. “I had fun. I’m pretty sure everyone had fun — especially from the South. We were killing them out there.”
Winning wasn’t the only driving force for Eddy. The game saw him going one-on-one with Grantham, in a battle of two of the top players in the state during the 2012-2013 season.
The foes traded back-to-back shots, almost always with a taunt toward the other.
“We’ve always been like that,” Eddy explained. “I respect his game, and he respects mine. We always go at it on the court. Off the court we’re friends, so there are no hard feelings.”
“It was good playing against Luke,” Grantham said. “Two players of the year, we kept saying that to each other. We just went hard at each other. He’s a competitor.”
Grantham, who was heavily recruited by West Virginia University, Georgetown and Clemson, has decided to hone his skills a little more before he heads away to college. He’ll spend next year at Hargrave Military Academy in North Carolina, where he’ll team with former Princeton standout, Ryan Meadows.
It may have been Grantham and Eddy who were the most recognizable names in the game, but a duo of Class-A players made sure the fans went home knowing their names as well.
Tug Valley’s Austin Brewer, playing on the court without his backcourt partner in Newsome for most of the game, put on a show, throwing down two of the game’s three dunks and bringing the capacity crowd of 550 to its feet. He finished the game with 13 points.
“I’m from single-A, and I just wanted to come out and show them I’m as good as they are,” Brewer said. “I regret not entering the dunk contest. I think I could have won it, as well.”
Perhaps Brewer just needed a little motivation, much like Greenbrier West’s Josh Martin.
The 6-foot-7 Martin, who finished the game with 10 points and 12 rebounds, said before the game that he wouldn’t enter the contest since he hadn’t prepared for it.
All it took was a few hundred fans chanting “Tree! Tree!” Martin’s nickname, to get him prepared.
“That was pretty great,” Martin said of the chants. “I’ve never had that happen. It was a good feeling.”
Martin advanced to the finals against the North’s Travis Tomer and secured the night’s highest score with a leap from just inside the foul line and a thunderous slam.
It wouldn’t be enough to win though as Tomer banked the ball off of an 18-foot high backboard before catching it in the air and throwing it down for the victory.
It wasn’t all fun and games, however, as the night saw the end of the career for one of the area’s top prep stars in Greater Beckley’s Keith Mullins.
“This was my last game I’ll ever play,” an emotional Mullins said. “This is a big honor to play in the game and get the win. I’m sad to see it end.”
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To go along with Tomer’s dunk contest victory, he also won the three point contest earlier in the night. Scott’s Matt Dolan was victorious in the free throw competition.
— E-mail: email@example.com and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins