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Wolverines knock off Knights in first round

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RALEIGH — Beating a team three times in one year is difficult, but Wakefield’s boys basketball team achieved that rare feat after taking down Knightdale 56-47 in the first round of the 4A state playoffs at home Tuesday.

The Wolverines have played the Knights four times this year and a total of eight times the past two seasons. It’s safe to say that Wakefield is quite accustomed with Knightdale’s playing style.

Wakefield head coach Garrett Stevens said playing a familiar team has its pros and cons, but the pros showed in the playoff win when it mattered most.

“Knightdale came out strong, so we had to make some adjustments with our zone defense,” Stevens said. “Our defense picked up in the second half. Our guys stepped up and made some tough shots tonight.”

Knightdale opened the game with an 11-5 lead. Wakefield found a way to cut the deficit to 14-11 by the end of the first quarter.

In the second period, Knightdale took its biggest lead of the night at 19-11. Wakefield didn’t go down that easy. The Wolverines clawed their way back to make the score 26-23 at halftime.

In the third quarter, Wakefield pulled off an impressive 14-5 run to take its first lead of the night at 37-31. The Wolverines held onto that advantage at 43-37 going into the fourth period.

In the final quarter, Wakefield outscored Knightdale 13-10 to stave off the Knights and finish the night with a 56-47 playoff victory.

“We have always tried to force Knightdale to make jump shots with the kind of defense we play against them,” Stevens said. “We wanted to pick the pace up a little bit in the second half. That helped us get more into rhythm.”

Tommy Petruccione led the way for Wakefield with 17 points. The senior knocked down five 3-pointers to help keep his team ahead.

“My teammates were finding me tonight,” Petruccione said. “We moved the ball better in the second half. In the first half, we were kind of stagnant. We started moving around, cutting to the open space and hitting 3-pointers.”

Another big contributor was Brenon Rogers. The senior came off the bench to pour in four 3-pointers, finishing the night with 12 points. Rogers started for the Wolverines in the beginning of the season, but a high ankle sprain kept him limited during NAC 6 conference play.

“I really wanted to help my team for this playoff stretch,” Rogers said. “The adrenaline rush helped me play well out there. In times like this, you have to be ready to play. I just focused my mind. We all know how serious these playoff games are.”

Harper Strickland also played well with 15 points. Vernon Fraley only scored five points, but he also came down with 10 rebounds. Jaxon Brown scored five points, grabbed five rebounds and led the Wolverines with five assists.

The third quarter was the biggest turning point for the Wolverines. They outscored Knightdale 20-11 for their biggest offensive output of the evening.

“We were playing fine, but we were just missing shots in the first half,” Rogers said. “Coach Stevens told us to play hard and play through it. He said we would come out on top if we keep things going.”

In its past match-ups, Knightdale won the first game this season at its place 61-47. Then when the two teams met at Wakefield, the Wolverines won 57-41. In the conference tie-breaker game, Wakefield won 50-42 to finish third in the NAC 6.

“Sometimes you have to throw things out the window,” Stevens said. “It all comes down to competing and who wants it more. Knightdale knows us just as much as we know them. I’m glad we won it tonight.”

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