Cavs motivated by last year's state title loss
On March 10, 2012, Cuthbertson High's boys basketball team sat in the locker room of Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh filled with disappointment following a 58-55 loss to Kinston in the 2A state championship.
Just over a year later, the Cavaliers have a chance at redemption.
Cuthbertson (29-3) gets a rematch with Kinston (27-2) in the 2A state title game in Chapel Hill starting at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.
"We've referred back to March 10 (2012) in the locker room at the end of the game and how we felt, and how we didn't want to have that feeling again," Cuthbertson coach Mike Helms said.
Cavs senior guard Emmitt Afam says last year's loss has been motivation.
"We all remember the feeling and that's what's been driving us all year," said Afam. "Even though it was a year ago, it's still fresh on our minds."
Afam says he wasn't surprised when he found out his team was facing Kinston for the second straight year.
"We're just excited to get another opportunity to play for a state championship," said Afam. "As soon as we won (last Saturday) Coach Helms went to watch (Kinston) play, so after we heard they had a big lead pretty early, we knew we were going to play them again. We kind of expected to play them."
Afam has been key during the Cavs' playoff run.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder has scored in double figures in three of the five postseason games, including 17 in last Saturday's semifinal victory over Shelby.
Afam, who eclipsed 1,000 career points in a quarterfinal victory over Trinity last week, was named MVP of the West Regional.
"Emmitt is very talented, but he doesn't force things," said Helms. "He's not a kid that goes out and hunts ways to score, but he is a capable scorer and can have 20 on any given night. We just have so much balance that we don't have to have that from him every night."
Afam is part of a balanced scoring attack for Cuthbertson.
Seven players are averaging better than six points per game, including junior guard and Wake Forest commit Shelton Mitchell, who averages a team-best 20.3 ppg.
Senior forward Isaiah Cureton is second on the team at 13.4 ppg, followed by Afam (9.3), senior guard Cornelius Stradford (8.5), senior guard Justin Austin (8.2), senior forward Lucius McMillon (7.8) and senior forward Jorden Hardrick (6.3).
"I think we're playing as well as we've played all year," said Helms. "We're getting contributions from everybody."
Afam, who averages 4.2 assists per contest, likes playing on a team that shares the ball.
"We know we have a lot of talent and scorers," said Afam. "We don't have to rely on one or two people. We can trust anybody to get a basket when we need one."
Helms said the team will leave school at 1 p.m. today and practice at Greensboro Day at 3:30 p.m.
The Cavs will stay in a hotel in Durham and will hold a shootaround at East Chapel Hill High Saturday morning before making their way to the Dean E. Smith Center.
"This week's been pretty routine," said Afam. "I think the experience from last year has helped us prepare better. We're really anxious to get back on the court."