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RALEIGH — After a long season, Wakefield’s boys basketball team ended their year with a 79-45 loss to South Central High School in the fourth round of the 4A state playoffs at home Tuesday.
The Falcons took an early lead of 16-7 at the end of the first quarter and ran away with the game from there. South Central went into halftime up 35-14 after a last second layup at the buzzer.
Another last second layup at the buzzer gave South Central a 61-33 advantage at the end of the third period. In the fourth quarter, the Wolverines couldn’t mount up a comeback as the Falcons dunked the ball all night long in the 79-45 blowout win.
“South Central shut us down offensively,” Wakefield head coach Garrett Stevens said. “They did a good job of keeping us outside of the paint and forcing us to take tough jump shots. Their pressure gave us some issues and they were outrunning us. They’re a heck of a team.”
Wakefield finished the season 24-5, which is their best record since 2011 when they won their last conference championship. The Wolverines won the NAC 6 regular season conference championship this year.
Wakefield was led by the dynamic senior duo of Trae Smith and Elijah Shabazz. Smith averaged 19.3 points and 5.4 rebounds this season and Shabazz averaged 9.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists. Smith ended his career with more than 1,350 points.
Seeing them leave was especially emotionally for Stevens, who has coached them since they were freshmen on the junior varsity squad
“Trae and Elijah have done a lot for this program,” Stevens said. “You hate to lose guys like them. I told them that if they work hard like they did tonight, everything they do in life will be successful.”
As for the rest of the Wakefield basketball program, they set historic marks with 2,073 total points, which hasn’t been done since 2006 when they won their second state championship.
Including Smith and Shabazz, Wakefield will say goodbye to seven seniors. Eight juniors will come back as seniors next year. Stevens is hoping the next group of players can continue to build off the success built by the senior class.
“We’re proud of these guys,” Stevens said. “They laid it all out there every night. It’s tough to see the seniors go. I’m hope they’re happy with the legacy that they’ve left. It’s up to the younger guys to help lead the program forward.”
Wakefield’s Brenon Rogers hit a 3-point shot right before the final buzzer to break the tie and give the Wolverines a 76-73 win over Panther Creek in the third round of the state playoffs at home Saturday.
With five seconds left in the game, Rogers took the inbound pass, dribbled around to get open and then threw up the shot a couple of feet outside the 3-point line. The junior guard sinked the shot and the game was over.
“As soon as the ball left my hand, I knew it was good,” Rogers said. “The play actually wasn’t designed for me. I knew as soon as I touched the ball from the pass, I had to heave it up there.”
Before that shot, Rogers only scored three points the entire game. Stevens said it was nice to win the game the way they did, considering they lost to Jordan High School on a buzzer-beater in the first round of the state playoffs last year.
“That was a big time shot from Brenon,” Stevens said. “We lost on a shot like that last year. It feels great to get a win like that this year.”
After he made the shot, Rogers was surrounded by fans who stormed the court. His teammates lifted him up in the air and carried him off the court. Rogers said it was a fun moment, but he remained focus on the task at hand.
“That is something you always dream about,” Rogers said. “I’m happy, but we’ve got another game to play in.”
Even though Rogers made the game-winning basket, Trae Smith was the player of the game for Wakefield. The senior scored a career-high 34 points against Panther Creek. He also grabbed six rebounds, which was second on the team.
“I was just attacking the gaps,” Smith said. “My teammates kept feeding me the ball, so I’m thankful for that. I was trying to keep our team in the game.”
Stevens praised Smith for his play on both offense and defense. Late in the game, Smith had to cover Panther Creek’s leading scorer, Justin McKoy.
“Scoring is just what Trae does,” Stevens said. “He’s done it for three years. He had to guard McKoy for most of the second half because we were getting into some foul trouble. For him to give us everything he had, that was awesome.”
After the game, Rogers talked about Smith’s leadership and how he sets a good example with his play on the court.
“Trae is very important to our team,” Rogers said. “He’s not really the type of guy that says something, but you follow him by his example. He’s a big help to our team.”
The first quarter was a back and forth scoring affair, but Panther Creek took the lead late and finished the period with a 20-17 lead. In the second quarter, neither team could stop each other from scoring. The Catamounts poured in 19 points to go into halftime up 39-35.
Panther Creek held the lead for most of the third quarter, but with 19 seconds left, Wakefield went ahead 54-51. The Catamounts cut the deficit to 54-53 going into the final period.
In the fourth quarter, Panther Creek took back the lead at 65-64. Then Wakefield drove down the court and went ahead 67-65. With 19 seconds left in the game, Panther Creek made a 3-point shot to cut the deficit to 72-71.
With 15 seconds left, Wakefield’s Vernon Fraley made his second free throw to make it a 73-71 game. Panther Creek’s McKoy tied the game on a layup at 73-73 with seven seconds left.
Stevens called a timeout two seconds later and drew up a play for the final shot of the game. Like Rogers said before, the play didn’t go as planned, but it didn’t matter. The guard made the big 3-point shot at the buzzer and Wakefield won the game 76-73.
“We had to fight to get back into it tonight,” Stevens said. “It was back and forth for those last few minutes. With the guys being in tough games all year, it makes them prepared for that moment.”
Wakefield has been a part of some close games all year. The Wolverines won seven games by single digits this season.
“We’ve been in this situation before,” Smith said. “We just had to keep going, no matter how down we were. We can’t get complacent. We have to keep working.”
With the win, Wakefield improved to 24-4 overall for the season and 13-1 at home.
Wakefield easily handles Apex Friendship
With the game tied at 30-30 at halftime, Wakefield outscored Apex Friendship 42-18 in the second half to win the game 72-48 in the second round of the state playoffs at home Feb. 28.
The Wolverines held the lead for the majority of the game, but the Patriots took a 33-32 advantage early in the third quarter. Stevens said the team made some changes on defense and that helped them pull away with the blowout victory.
“We just made a few defensive adjustments in the second half,” Stevens said. “We had to key in on Nick Farrar from Apex Friendship. The defense led to our offense.”
Darrius Everett was one of the key playmakers in the win over Apex Friendship. The senior guard led the Wolverines with 20 points and four assists, while also grabbing three rebounds.
“We did good at running our sets,” Everett said. “In the second half, we got into it defensively. The basket just looked huge after that.”
Stevens said the team fed off of Darrius’ big plays on offense. Usually, the scoring is handled by Smith, but having someone else pick up the pace on offense made everything easier.
“Darrius’ energy is contagious,” Stevens said. “Tonight, he was hitting shots and attacking the rim well. When we get someone else going on offensively besides Trae, it helps our dynamic.”
Wakefield’s 24 points as a team in the third quarter helped propel the squad to the win. The Wolverines also locked down on defense by only allowing eight points scored against them in the fourth quarter.
“We just threw different defenses at Apex Friendship in the second half,” Everett said. “It messed them up a little bit. We went back and forth from man to zone defense.”