Warriors will have to hurry back
They usually try to get the game fast and ugly, but not tonight.
When Weddington High's boys face Freedom in the 3A state quarterfinal round in the Greensboro Coliseum Special Events Center starting at 5:00, the Warriors want a more methodical pace.
Freedom's fast, and that's how they want to play, which is why the 28-1 Patriots are averaging 87.7 points per game in their three playoff wins.
"They're definitely the best team, or one of the best teams, we've seen all year," said Weddington coach Gary Ellington. "They don't have a true point guard or a true five. Whoever rebounds it leads the break, and the guys off the bench are the same way. They play 8-9 guys and they're pretty much all guards. They want to get out and run."
To reach the state semifinals for the second time in Weddington's 14-year history, Ellington believes his team's top priority has to be getting back on defense.
"It's going to be a challenge for us for sure in terms of transition defense," Ellington said. "They want to make it a track meet. We want to get back and make them play some half court offense.
"We definitely don't want to shoot off the first pass. If you put up a quick shot in transition against them, you might as well be making the first pass on their break because they're gone."
Both teams are balanced on offense with four double-digit scorers each.
Senior guard Gabe Logan leads the Pats in scoring at 14.3 ppg, including a 30-point night in a second-round win over Hickory.
Freedom also relies on Darrion Evans, a four-year starter at point guard who has signed with Catawba Valley Community College.
The Patriots have a 76-18 record since Evans moved into the starting lineup.
Weddington (27-2) gets a lot of production from senior Brandon Watts, a 6-4 small forward who tops the team in scoring (14.2 ppg), assists (3.0), blocked shots (2.7) and steals (2.3) while ranking second in rebounding (8.0).
Ellington is used to being the smaller team on the floor, but his a slight size advantage.
"We're actually a little bigger than them," Ellington said. "But they get a ton of offensive rebounds. The Hickory coach (Andy Poplin) says they basically play volleyball. The tip it around until they put it in."
Ellington wants to see his top rebounder, 6-3 senior center Blake Waud, have a big night.
Waud has 14 double-doubles this year and averages 10.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.
"The guy that can have a big impact in this game is Blake with the desire he has for offensive rebounds," Ellington said. "I'm hoping Blake can be a difference maker for us."
Ellington is impressed with the way Freedom values the ball — on every possession.
"They play really hard," Ellington said. "I've watched five games and there hasn't been a single game when they weren't going 100 percent, 100 percent of the time. Every loose ball you see two or three Freedom jerseys diving for it. That's how we play, too. Our teams are like a mirror image of each other."
Ellington, who uses an eight-man rotation, says fatigue could be a factor playing on a college court — which is 10 feet longer than an 84-foot high school court.
"That extra 10 feet makes a difference, especially in the fourth quarter," Ellington said. "If we press and trap it will probably be more in the half court. If you trap full court on a college floor you can't rotate back and all the sudden you're giving them layups."
The winner of tonight's game plays on Sunday at 4 p.m. in the state semifinal round.