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Greensboro Day outlasts Grimsley in boys tournament final
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Greensboro Day outlasts Grimsley in boys tournament final

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HAECOisHiring.com Championship matches (copy)

Greensboro Day's Nik Graves shushes the crowd after hitting a 3-point shot during the second quarter of the HAECOisHiring.com Invitational championship game Wednesday night at the Greensboro Coliseum Special Events Center. Graves and the Bengals rallied from an early 12-2 deficit to beat Grimsley 64-49.

GREENSBORO — Greensboro Day continued its dominance of the boys bracket of the city’s annual holiday basketball tournament, winning its 18th title Wednesday night. But the top-seeded Bengals’ 64-49 victory over second-seeded Grimsley in the HAECOIsHiring.com Invitational was far from routine.

Greensboro Day was without legendary coach Freddy Johnson, who missed the three-day tournament because of COVID-19 protocols. Longtime assistant Jeff Smith was filling in as acting head coach and “had a legacy to protect.”

“The HAECO is obviously a top priority for him and the program every year,” said Robert Johnson, Freddy’s son and a Bengals assistant coach. “He’s been a part of it for a long time. We obviously miss him, but our marching orders were to win. The orders were fulfilled.”

It wasn’t easy, despite the final 15-point margin. Grimsley led 12-2 and was the aggressor from the start, which shouldn’t have been a surprise from a Whirlies team that came in with a 10-0 record.

“They were really good,” Smith said. “They came out confident and took it to us. They got us on our heels briefly, but I’m confident in our guys. … I knew all we had to do was grind out possession by possession.”

GDS tied it at 12 to close the opening quarter with a 10-0 run of its own. Grimsley led 25-24 at halftime and was only down by one point heading to the fourth quarter. That’s when the Bengals (18-2) took control with an 11-0 surge, and the Whirlies never got closer than seven points again.

Tournament MVP Jaydon Young led GDS with 24 points, including 15 in the second half. “I encouraged him at halftime to play better and he did that in the second half,” Smith said of the junior guard.

Bengals senior guard Nik Graves and senior post player C.J. Collins also were named to the all-tournament team, along with Grimsley’s Tyler Albright and Jordan Wall.

“I was really proud of C.J.,” Smith said of Collins, who had 10 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. “He impacted the game from start to finish.”

Albright had a similar impact for Grimsley throughout the tournament and finished with a team-high 19 points and eight rebounds. But Greensboro Day’s size and depth wore down a Whirlies team that had already fought through tough games with Ragsdale and Page to make the final.

“We’re coming off back-to-back games where we had to give maximum effort,” coach Darren Corbett said. “We just came up a little bit short tonight.”

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As Grimsley heads back into Metro 4-A Conference play, it does so with added confidence.

“We know we can play with anybody,” Corbett said. “We knew this was a great team coming in. They had beaten some good teams and played a lot of national programs. For us to be right there with them was great for us. We’ll be back.”

Freddy Johnson will be back, too, and soon. He spent Wednesday night listening to the webcast on GreensboroSportsRadio.com.

“I’m sure Coach Johnson was way more nervous than I was,” Smith said. “I’m sure I’ve got about 50 texts messages from the middle of the game.”

He need not have worried, as Smith and the Bengals took care of business and won their ninth title in 10 years.

“It was a team effort and all of the assistants and players were a part of this,” Smith said.

BOX SCORE

Grimsley (10-1) — Tyler Albright 7-9 3-3 19, Jordan Wall 6-12 1-1 15, Alex Taylor 3-8 1-1 7, Jayden Watlington 2-9 0-2 6, Zacch Wiggins 1-10 0-0 2, Marschall Uber 0-3 0-0 0, Nolan Albright 0-0 0-0 0, Justin O'Neil 0-0 0-0 0, Jaylon Bumpass 0-0 0-0 0, Elijah Houser 0-1 0-0 0, Peter Martinek-Jenne 0-1 0-0 0, Nick Elliot 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-53 5-7 49.

Greensboro Day (18-2) — Jaydon Young 10-16 3-3 24, Nik Graves 3-10 5-10 13, C.J. Collins 5-11 0-2 10, Julius Reese 2-3 2-3 7, Michael Zanoni 1-7 2-2 4, Jackson Noble 1-2 0-0 2, James Stainback 0-0 2-2 2, Billy Burton 0-0 2-2 2, Jordan Moody 0-1 0-0 0, Addison Newkirk 0-0 0-0 0, Cuyler Baxter 0-0 0-0 0, Reid Carrier 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 22-50 16-26 64.

Grimsley                               12  13  11  13   —   49

Greensboro Day                  12  12  13  27   —   64

Three-point goals—Grimsley 6-22 (Watlington 2-7, Wall 2-3, Albright 2-2, Uberl 0-1, Houser 0-1, Martinek-Jenne 0-1, Wiggins 0-5, Taylor 0-2), Greensboro Day 4-13 (Graves 2-3, Reese 1-1, Young 1-4, Zanoni 0-4, Moody 0-1). Rebounds—Grimsley 29 (T.Albright), Greensboro Day 38 (Collins, Young 10). Assists—Grimsley 13 (Wiggins 5), Greensboro Day 10 (Reese 3). Total fouls—Grimsley 18, Greensboro Day 12.

Contact Joe Sirera at 336-373-7034, and follow @JoeSireraSports on Twitter.

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