The Dobyns-Bennett boys basketball team, which almost upset Trinity in last year’s first round and came close to a number of other big upsets last season, came up big in Thursday afternoon’s opening-round game of the 37th Arby’s Classic at Viking Hall.
The Indians (7-4) beat Georgia’s Southwest DeKalb 48-45 by taking care of the ball and making free throws down the stretch to earn a spot in Saturday night’s quarterfinals against Mentor of Ohio.
The game was reminiscent of last season’s narrow loss to Bearden in the state sectionals in which the Tribe controlled the pace and had the chance to win at the end.
“I’m extremely proud of the way we competed. From tipoff to the last buzzer, I thought we competed at the highest level,” Indians coach Chris Poore said. “We were relentless the entire game. This is a huge win and we didn’t shoot it particularly well, but we made shots when we needed to. Our guys found a way and none of them would’ve been in that position last year.”
The Indians were only 15-for-42 from the floor and 15-for-23 from the free-throw line, but senior Abiah Releford willed his team to the finish line, scoring a game-high 16 points. Malachi Hale netted 11 for the Indians.
“We knew they were an aggressive team. They were bigger than us, taller than us and more athletic, so we knew we had to go out there and slow the game down,” Releford said. “We took care of the ball and played as a team. Coach Poore said that taking care of the ball late was important and try to find the open guy. The middle was open a lot.”
Michael Wright had 13 points to lead Southwest DeKalb. Ohio State signee Eugene Brown III was held to just nine on 4-for-13 shooting. His one highlight came early in the first half on a two-handed slam dunk off a fast break.
When Brown did get off a shot, at least two D-B defenders had a hand up.
With 3:39 left, the Panthers were down by five and putting the pressure on the Indians. But Southwest’s Mohamed Diallo fouled in the open court and Wytavius Sercy drew a technical foul, giving D-B four free throws.
Southwest had a chance as time was winding down, but Kusamae Wright’s 3-pointer from just in front of his own bench was long — and it landed in Releford’s hands.
Wise Central 58, Tabernacle Baptist (Bahamas) 40
In the school’s first appearance at the prestigious tournament, the Warriors struck first and never trailed in the win over Tabernacle Baptist.
Central senior guard Isaiah McAmis nailed his first shot of the game from deep and he went on to finish with 22 points and six makes from the perimeter.
“That was big,” McAmis said. “It felt good to hit that first shot and I have been looking forward to this thing ever since I found out we were in it.”
“Seeing some points drop in early really is calming,” Central coach T.J. McAmis said. “We had two games in Florida where we played all four quarters with poise and we had one where we lost it a bit. Tonight we played a full game and we looked like a senior-led team. This was probably the biggest stage that any of our kids had ever played on.”
Central became just the second Southwest Virginia team to win its opening-round game, joining Council from 2001. Those Cobras were coming off a state championship they won behind Brad Nuckles, a sharpshooter like Isaiah McAmis.
The Falcons cut the lead to three late in the game, but Brody Allison made a 3-pointer that put Central up 41-35. Tabernacle never got any closer.
Elijah Hayes, who had the tournament’s first slam dunk in the first half and scored 13 points, was a good second option for Central. Allison finished with nine points, all on big 3-point baskets.
“It was different (dunking at the Arby’s),” Hayes said. “It’s the first time anyone for Central’s been able to dunk. It was a great pass by Isaiah and there were two people on him and only one on me.”
Denardo Adderley led Tabernacle with 17 points.
Concord First Assembly (N.C.) 75, Hampton 44
Concord First Assembly, the top-ranked private school in North Carolina, outscored Hampton 20-0 in the first quarter.
Youngstown State signee Checik Traore coupled 16 points with 10 rebounds, and Furman signee Garrett Hien also scored 16 points. Both stand over 6-foot-8 and the tallest player on Hampton’s roster is 6-5.
Jordan Bentley scored 13 points for the Bulldogs, who committed 23 turnovers and were outrebounded 38-13.
“Nothing would go down and we had so many turnovers,” Hampton coach Ned Smith said. “They’re a good team and extremely long. They forced us to throw some lob passes and do things we weren’t used to. ... (Hien and Traore) play above the rim and I can see why they’re going to play at the next level.
“We won’t see anything like this even if we are fortunate enough to get to the state tournament. This is a good experience for us.”
Mentor (Ohio) 83, Greeneville 54
The Cardinals got off to a good start and never looked back.
Chad Rogers led Mentor with 26 points, Luke Chicone added 18 and Kent State football signee Luke Floriea had 16.
Jakobi Gillespie had 21 points and Connor DeBusk 14 for the Greene Devils, who next meet Southwest DeKalb in a losers’ bracket game.