Gathright steps up to help Screaming Eagles top Wildcats
Mon. February 25, 2013 at 11:20 p.m. | By Powell Latimer | StarNews Staff Writer
TJ Williams (left) and Trevon Brown reach for the ball as New Hanover High School hosts the Ashley boy's basketball team in the NCHSAA playoffs Monday. (Photo by Paul Stephen)
In the second half Monday night, Ashley senior T.J. Williams looked to sophomore teammate Tyree Gathright and told him he was "not a baby anymore."
Gathright grew up fast – and at the best possible time for Ashley – scoring 24 points and leading the Screaming Eagles to a 60-48 win at New Hanover for the program's first playoff win in the opening round of the Class 4A boys basketball state tournament.
Gathright scored 17 points in the second half as Ashley pulled away in the final minutes, and hit what seemed like every big bucket down the stretch.
New Hanover led by two points midway through the third quarter when Gathright took over. He scored six in a row to give Ashley the lead, and his put-back at the third-quarter buzzer made it a two-possession game.
New Hanover (15-10) closed the gap to three points in the fourth quarter, but Gathright answered with a three-point play to restore the cushion.
"Welcome to the world, Tyree Gathright," Ashley coach Bryn McSwain said. "He's done that a couple times earlier, and this is how scary-good he can be. That still wasn't what he's capable of."
The win broke the Screaming Eagles (17-8) out of a late-season slump at just the right time. Entering the playoffs, Ashley had lost five of its last nine games, including two losses to New Hanover.
Monday's win saw Ashley reverse the principal problem with the earlier losses – rebounding.
"That's where they killed us," McSwain said. "In all three games, even the one we won, they killed us on the glass. This game wasn't any differently officiated in the paint, they allowed us to bang, and this time we banged back."
On Monday, Ashley out-rebounded New Hanover 25-23, and the Screaming Eagles pulled down seven offensive rebounds. Williams led the way with 12 rebounds, and added 11 points.
Ashley also forced the Wildcats into costly turnovers, picking off a series of lazy passes on the perimeter. Gathright collected five of Ashley's 10 steals for the game.
"We weren't strong with the ball," New Hanover coach Kirk Angel said. "We weren't triple-threat, and their defense had something to do with it, but we've played teams that were better defensively. We just weren't strong with the ball."
The Wildcats also shot only 33 percent in the second half. Trevon Brown led New Hanover with 15 points and Nigel Holley added 10 points and 11 rebounds.
"They made shots and we didn't," Angel said. "They got stops and we didn't.
For Ashley's seniors, the playoff hill has been a long one to climb. Even a trip to the top-ranked team in the East – Clayton on Wednesday – is a welcome one.
"This was one of our even bigger goals, was to advance in the playoffs," Williams said. "I really feel like we're not going to stop here."
Powell Latimer: 343-2261
On Twitter: @StarNewsVarsity