Reynolds Boys Win MAC, Girls Share Crown With AHS - TribPapers
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Reynolds Boys Win MAC, Girls Share Crown With AHS

Enka’s Jacob “Air” Adair (25) zooms in for a dunk, getting past Asheville’s C.J. Morgan (32) Friday. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Asheville – A.C. Reynolds Lady Rockets earned a share of the regular season Mountain Athletic Conference basketball title with road wins by 20 points over T.C. Roberson and by nine at McDowell, while Reynolds boys won the MAC outright despite a loss to third-place Roberson Rams.

The Lady Rockets (16-7; 10-1 MAC) won 75-55 on Feb. 7. They swept TCR, beating the Lady Rams (16-8; 8-4) by 57-49 on Jan. 13. Reynolds males and females are both reigning MAC champions. The Lady Rockets stayed atop the MAC at 11-1, tied with Asheville, after winning 59-50 at McDowell on Friday.

The conference tournament is at McDowell, began Monday, and concludes on Friday, Feb. 17.

ACR Girls’ Win of Year

Reynold girls’ biggest win was by 63-60 over Asheville Lady Cougars (22-1; 11-1) on Jan. 27. ACR hand AHS it sole defeat in the regular season, snapping its 18-game winning streak. This also helped Reynolds eventually share the league crown with AHS. Asheville won their first showdown by 11, at 52-41 on Jan. 3.

“Our girls want this conference championship bad, and every game means something to them,” Lady Rocket head coach Amanda Whitaker said. The win at McDowell was on her birthday.

In the victory over AHS, lanky 6-3 Jenna Barnes (13 ppg.) scored a game-best 24 points for ACR and guard Peyton Harvey scored 17. Guard Anna Wilcox neutralized MAC leading scorer Evangelia Paulk (19 ppg.) much of the time. ACR deployed a box-and-one zone to try to keep passes from getting in to agile six-foot senior Paulk.

Lady Cougar Press

“Sleek Greek” Paulk still scored 21 points. “We adjusted. We several other scorers. I set screens and picks to help them get open. I also got some points” on the classic “pick and roll” play.

She had a freer rein when Asheville won the schools’ first matchup. AHS broke open a very close game with a 27-8 run. That turned an eight-point deficit into an 11-point win at 52-41.

Athletic, well-conditioned AHS thrives with its tenacious, aggressive full-court press. AHS head coach Sonita Warren-Dixon said, “We work hard at it, and get after teams to force turnovers.” Coach Whitaker said, “They press for the majority of the game. That’s what they like to do, and what they’re very good at.”

Practicing Against Boys

Before the rematch, Coach Whitaker had her squad practice against Reynolds’ male basketball varsity players. She said she did this a few times before.

Coach Whitaker said after the triumph at TCR, “We had a great team effort. Everyone that stepped on the floor last night impacted the game in some way. That’s huge for us. Jenna Barnes and Peyton Harvey had great games. Four of our starters scored in double digits.”

Harvey led the way with 22 points. She seemingly left her initials on the same spot from which she kept swishing three-point shots. Her spot was right of the top of the key, when facing the basket. Barnes scored all 16 of her points in the first three periods. Aggressive guard Julie Janus scored 11. Landyn Stewart, a strong six-footer, often approaches “double doubles.” She is a Mars Hill signee.

Roberson led ACR in both games after one period. But ACR outscored TCR 19-8 in the second period and 27-17 in the third period.

Reynolds slowed the tempo in the second half and dominated the boards in its first win over TCR. Roberson scored that game’s first 11 points. Harvey (11.2 ppg.) led ACR with 16 points. Janus (11.2 ppg.) scored 14 of her 15 points in the first half, and added 12 rebounds. Harvey and Stewart each had eight offensive rebounds. Barnes had 13 total rebounds, as ACR flexed its height advantage in the “paint.”

AHS Closes in Style

Asheville Lady Cougars also swept TCR, by counts of 59-43 and 49-45. They thrashed Enka 79-49 on Friday to end the regular season. Wofford-signee Paulk (19 ppg., 7.6 reb., 2.5 blocks, 3.2 assists) paces the team in four statistical categories. Junior Kirsten Watt (15.7 ppg., 6.8 reb.) and senior point guard Aleysha Hill (10.8 ppg.) also score in double digits. Paulk scored 19 points at Enka. Hayziah Dillingham added 14, Watt 13, and Hill 11.

Coach Laura Foster’s TCR Lady Rams are led in scoring by Ryann Hernandez (13 ppg.), point guard E.P. Sluder (12) and six-foot senior Tymber Thompson (11.5 ppg.).

Paulk hopes history repeats. This is the 20th anniversary of the first of three straight Lady Cougar 3A state crowns, when 6-1 Rashanda McCants led AHS before starring for UNC. Paulk called AHS winning all but one game so far pleasantly “insane.”

Other MAC squads are McDowell (15-8; 6-6), North Buncombe (9-15; 2-10), Erwin (8-16; 2-10), and Enka (2-22; 2-10). Enka was the 3A state runner-up a season ago. Erwin beat NBHS to avoid being the sole MAC cellar dweller.

Enka senior Hadleigh Dill (12 ppg.) and NBHS Lady Hawks Devon Davis (11.8) and Eden Barnwell (10) also average double digits in points. Sophomore Gracie Merrill led Enka with 14 points Friday. She scored ten in the first half, when Enka sank seven three-pointers.

Ram Tough Boys

Reynolds boys (14-10 overall) finished 10-2. Enka (19-5) was 9-3. Roberson (10-14) was 8-4, and McDowell (12-11) 7-5. The other three are Asheville (6-17; 4-8 MAC), North Buncombe (13-11; 4-8) and Erwin (4-20; 0-12).

Roberson charged into third place after its huge 59-50 win over Reynolds on Feb. 7, and after Reynolds beat McDowell. The Rams led ACR by 17-12 after one period, 30-21 at halftime, and 41-33 after three periods. ACR closed to 17-6. But a 13-5 Ram run widened the lead, which was around ten points much of the way.

“We finally shot the ball well for an entire game,” veteran Ram head coach Billy Phillips said. “We focused well.”

Jacob Asbill exploded for a career-best 28 points. That is more than double his 13.6 average, and nearly matching his jersey number 30. The agile, slender guard scored inside and out. The senior soccer standout is in his sole varsity hoops season.

Asbill contained his euphoria until grinning late in the contest. He called it a “huge rivalry win. We circled this game on the calendar. We came together, with great teamwork. Two or three of our guys at a time boxed them out down low, and crashed the boards for rebounds.”

Ram Max McDowell (11.3 ppg.) said that his pivotal steal and layup with 7:25 left “changed momentum,” to help reopen the lead.

Greg and Lee Lowe have two of their four sons on the Ram varsity. Luke Lowe is a junior. Dean is a freshman. Their eldest brother Josh led TCR in scoring and rebounding last year. Josh is in the first of two years as a Mormon missionary, before attending Brigham Young University. Their youngest brother, Max, is in seventh grade.

Rockets, Jets Fire Up

Reynolds, coached by Ryan Stevens, had balanced scoring against TCR. Six-seven Grant Clayton scored 13 points. Forward DaShawn Stone (11 ppg.), the Duke signee football safety, scored half of his 12 points in the final period. But the Rams held point guard Jayden Harper (13 ppg., 4 assists) to nine points and Declan Brown to six. Brown leads ACR by averaging 16 points and 7.3 rebounds. He “drains” 47 percent of his three-point shots.

Enka sports a pair of athletic 20-point scorers in 6-4 Logan Crook (23), and 6-3 senior point guard Jacob Adair (20.3). Sam Waddell (10.2 ppg.) is also a skilled Jet wing player. Coach Brian Carver’s crew as usual is proficient in driving aggressively to the basket and firing in three-pointers. Jacob Tiller (26 ppg.) led the MAC in scoring in the season’s first half. But he was reportedly dismissed in early January after repeated, excessive on-court behavior.

The Jets blasted AHS 70-47 at home in “The Hangar” Friday, zooming to a 20-5 lead. “Air Adair” jammed home a basket for a 31-15 first-half lead. He was fouled sailing in for another stuff Friday. AHS cut the lead in half to seven at halftime, before Enka again rolled. An Enka student fan’s sign read: “Our Court. Our House. Our Game.”

Chad Clark (22.4) of NBHS is another MAC gunner. His teammates Spencer Roane (13.5), Gabe Banks (11) and Trent Clark (10.5) are among double-digit MAC scorers along with Asheville’s 6-4 senior center Jordan Hines (10.4).