Standing room only for Ellis vs. South boys

Published 4:30 pm Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Brian Pitts

Davie Enterprise Record

It’s hard to choose a single player or play or sequence that defined victory for the Ellis boys basketball team in the season opener in South Davie’s standing-room-only gym on Nov. 17.

It may have been back-to-back 3-pointers by Aiden Horton and Braxton Bowling when Ellis extended its lead in the third quarter. It may have been an alley-oop to Ben Reid early in the fourth. It may have been Reid’s pass to Bowling with :45 remaining.

All of them were big plays as the Jaguars overrode a 13-point deficit to win a 66-60 shootout in Daniel York’s coaching debut.

“There’s things to work on – that’s for sure – but it was a great way to start the season,” York said. “Germain (Mayfield, South’s ninth-year coach) has a good group of kids. They gave us a run for our money.”

While Ellis was unnerved by a road game in front of a raucous crowd, the Tigers came out blistering in the first quarter. They bolted to a 16-6 lead and pushed the margin to 13. South seventh grader Noah Dulin, a smooth lefty point guard, was a one-man wrecking crew in the first half.

“Playing away in the first game against an in-county school, we came out a little scared,” York said. “There was a big crowd, a lot of noise in there. Man, it was loud. At the beginning, that got the best of us. South put a lot of pressure on the ball. It was hard to get a pass off.”

But the Jaguars shook off the jitters and stormed back in the second quarter. Brandon Forrest banged a pair of 3-pointers and Bowling and Horton connected once each from long range as Ellis cut its halftime deficit to 30-26.

“I’m proud of the way they handled themselves,” York said of his boys. “They played a heck of a ballgame.”

Ellis had a 37-36 lead when a frenzy produced a lead it never relinquished. After Horton nailed a triple, Ellis got a steal in the backcourt and Bowling splashed a 3. Just like that, it was 43-36. When Forrest converted a layup in transition, it was 45-36 and South was in trouble.

But Jayden Warren was a steadying presence for South. He scored twice in the paint to draw South within 45-40 late in the third quarter.

But then came a wow from Ellis. Bowling inbounded from in front of Ellis’ bench, his long pass going toward the rim. Reid soared to put in the alley-oop – not something you see everyday in middle school hoops. Ellis’ lead was 61-54.

“If Ben gets open, he can dunk,” York said of the 6-4 Reid. “I definitely expect to see one or two this season.”

The Tigers fought back. Cameron Knox scored, Dulin hit a free throw and Draeton Nance scored inside as he was fouled. He missed the accompanying free throw, but South was within 61-60 with 64 seconds remaining and the gym was rocking.

What came next was the assist of the night. Reid found himself with the ball 25 feet from the basket. He whipped a pass to Bowling, who was deep in the lane. Bowling finished to give Ellis a 63-60 lead at :45.

Then Ellis held on for dear life. South missed a 3. Knox got a steal for South at :25, but it missed the front end of a one-and-one at :18. After Forrest split a pair of free throws for 64-60 breathing room, Bowling scored on a steal/layup. Ballgame.

There were eight double-figure scorers in the fierce battle – four from each side. Bowling (19 points), Forrest (16), Horton (11) and Reid (10) paced Ellis.

“(Bowling, the point guard) is a stud,” York said. “We relied heavily on Braxton, and he played a heck of a game. Aiden is our knock-down shooter. (Forrest, who nailed three 3s in the first half) is a threat all over the floor. They were trapping us up top and we found Brandon in the corner. (Reid) is a crucial part of our offense. He definitely grew a lot (in the offseason). I think he’s grown six inches since last year.”

Dulin looked unstoppable in the first half (16 points), but he cooled off and finished with 19. Warren had 10 of his 14 in the third. Nance also had 14 and Knox 13.

York said his defensive player of the game was unquestionably Forrest, who helped limit Dulin to one field goal in the second half – after he dropped six on Ellis in the opening 14 minutes.

“Braxton picked up three fouls (in the first half), so we switched Brandon on to (Dulin) toward the end of the first half,” York said. “We told Brandon to not let Noah get the ball.”

“(Dulin) has asthma so bad and he gets really tired quickly, so he loses his legs,” Mayfield said. “But he is as skilled of a seventh grader that I’ve ever coached.”

Even though the Tigers had a win snatched from their grasp, we must note they traded jabs with Ellis without one of their top players – injured Jayce Bentley, who averaged 8.3 points as a seventh grader.

“I’m not sure (when he’ll be able to play),” Mayfield said. “He goes to the doctor (this) week, so I have my fingers crossed. If we can get Jayce back and in shape, we score another 14-18 points, and the game gets a lot easier for Noah.”

Jesiere Arnold and Zaheem Resso had six and four points, respectively, for Ellis. Luke Foster chipped in two points for South.

ND 51, NCLA 37

The first quarter was tight, but North Davie’s boys kicked into gear in the second quarter and rolled to a breezy win over visiting North Carolina Leadership Academy on Nov. 17.

“It was a big win over last year’s undefeated conference champions,” coach Trevor Gooch said after North went on a 14-5 run in the second quarter to take a 20-9 lead to intermission in the Wildcats’ season opener. The run was 34-16 across the middle quarters. “We had a really good third quarter off our halfcourt trap.”

Edarius Oliver had an exceptional night with 19 points, 10 rebounds and five steals while making 6 of 8 free throws. He was complemented by Blake French (11 points, 12 rebounds), Ty Greene (eight points) and Will Carter (four points, five assists).

“Edarius played hard on defense and did a great job of attacking the basket for some easy layups,” Gooch said. “Blake was a beast on the boards. Will did a good job at the point.”

Tannyr Carrier had three points. Nolan Allen, Chad Hardin and Glen Greene had two apiece.