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Grimsley gets shot at Greensboro Day in boys final
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Grimsley gets shot at Greensboro Day in boys final

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HAECOisHiring.com Invitational, Day 2 (copy)

Grimsley's Tyler Albright celebrates after a Whirlies basket against Page on Tuesday during a semifinal of the HAECOisHiring.com Invitational at the Greensboro Coliseum Special Events Center. Albright and Grimsley advanced with a 50-41 win and will play Greensboro Day on Wednesday night for the boys championship.

GREENSBORO — Grimsley’s boys basketball team is back in the final of the city’s big holiday tournament for the first time in a dozen years. The Whirlies are undefeated and playing with a confident air.

Yet, they’ll have a huge challenge against top-seeded Greensboro Day in the championship game of the HAECOisHiring.com Invitational championship game at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Greensboro Coliseum Special Events Center.

HAECOIsHiring.com Invitational update

“You always want to see the big dog fall,” Whirlies senior guard Tyler Albright said. “We want to keep that losing category with a zero for as long as we can.”

Grimsley (10-0) withstood a huge comeback from Page before recovering to win 50-41 in Tuesday night’s late semifinal. Earlier, GDS took apart Smith 63-35.

The Bengals (17-2) are likely to be missing their longtime coach, while a standout guard’s status might be in question for the title game. Those are among the issues for GDS.

But in many ways, this matchup is about Grimsley and its quest to climb this mountain. The Whirlies won the 2009 tournament, but they haven’t advanced this deep since then. So their confidence is swelling, particularly after a 15-point lead on Page disappeared before the Whirlies closed the game on a 13-3 run.

“We’ve been in that situation before a few times,” coach Darren Corbett said. “We have an experienced group that knows how to pull it out.”

Top-seeded Greensboro Day, with its collection of Division I recruits, will be a formidable foe. The Bengals have won eight of the last nine tournaments.

“When we play, we can be really good, too,” Corbett said.

GDS has played its first two games of the tournament without coach Freddy Johnson because of COVID protocols. It’s unlikely he’ll be on the bench for the title game, so assistant coach Jeff Smith will remain in charge.

“It’s a piece missing, but all the coaches are prepared to help us,” senior Jackson Noble said.

The Bengals played earlier this season with Smith directing the show because of Johnson’s neck surgery.

“We’re going to have the same preparation for every game,” guard Jaydon Young said. “(Coach Freddy Johnson) instills in us the things we have to do.”

What GDS might not be so comfortable with is playing extensively without senior guard Michael Zanoni. He scored eight points in 10 minutes against Smith before exiting with an injured right ankle before the midway mark of the second quarter. He had the ankle propped up for a portion of the second half as he sat at the end of the bench, but wasn’t needed as the Bengals held a 37-13 halftime edge.

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Smith said it shouldn’t be a long-term injury and a further assessment of Zanoni’s status should be made Wednesday.

“It has been next man up with us all season, but he should be good" for the title game, Noble said.

The Bengals have been involved in a bunch of blowouts, though they’ve won a pair of one-point decisions.

Six of Grimsley’s victories have come by single-digit margins. So if the Whirlies are in a tight game, they should be accustomed to the potential situations.

“We’re not underdogs in our hearts,” Albright said. “We’re trying to prove to everyone that we’re for real.”

BOX SCORES

Smith                                      7   6  10  12   —   35

Greensboro Day                   16  21  19   7   —   63

SMITH (7-4) — NayShaun Hale 4-13 2-2 11, Richard Goods 3-11 0-0 6, TayShawn Mann 1-1 2-6 4, Gage Lattimore 1-6 0-0 3, Markquan Gilbert 0-1 3-4 3S, Nick Aikens 1-5 0-1 2, Derek Burris 1-2 0-0 2, Carlos Neely 1-2 0-0 2, Joshua Hughes 1-1 0-0 2, Xavier Partee 0-6 0-0 0, Ishmael Mande 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 13-49 7-13 35.

GREENSBORO DAY (17-2) — Nik Graves 5-8 3-5 13, Jaydon Young 5-9 0-0 13, Julius Reese 4-6 1-2 12, Michael Zanoni 3-5 0-0 8, Addison Newkirk 1-3 2-3 4, Jackson Noble 2-8 0-0 4, Billy Burton 1-5 0-0 3, C.J. Collins 1-1 1-1 3, Cuyler Baxter 1-4 0-0 2, Reid Carrier 0-0 1-2 1, Jordan Moody 0-2 0-0 0, James Stainback 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-52 8-13 63.

Three-point goals—Smith 2-10 (Hale 1-6, Lattimore 1-1, Aikens 0-1, Partee 0-2), Greensboro Day 9-25 (Reese 3-3, Young 3-5, Zanoni 2-4, Burton 1-3, Baxter 0-1, Moody 0-2, Noble 0-3, Newkirk 0-2, Graves 0-2). Fouled out—Collins. Rebounds—Smith 32 (Aikens, Goods 6), Greensboro Day 40 (Newkirk 10). Assists—Smith 6 (Lattimore 2), Greensboro Day 15 (Graves 6). Total fouls—Smith 12, Greensboro Day 13.

Page                          4  11  16  10   —   41

Grimsley                  10  14  12  14   —   50

PAGE (4-5) — Josh Scovens 10-19 1-3 22, Grady Sherrill 3-5 0-0 9, Jerron Blackwell 3-12 2-3 8, Jaden Hall 1-1 0-0 2, Alex Jones 0-0 0-0 0, Jackson Hill 0-1 0-0 0, Black McGowan 0-0 0-0 0, Malik Maberson 0-1 0-0 0, Camden Pennix 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 17-42 3-6 41.

GRIMSLEY (10-0) — Zacch Wiggins 6-14 1-1 14, Tyler Albright 4-6 4-6 12, Jayden Watlington 6-15 0-0 12, Jordan Wall 2-9 0-0 5, Alex Taylor 1-7 1-2 4, Nick Elliot 1-5 0-0 3, Jaylon Bumpass 0-1 0-0 0, Marschall Uber 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-58 6-9 50.

Three-point goals—Page 4-12 (Sherrill 3-3, Scovens1-3, Hill 0-1, Pennix 0-3, Blackwell 0-2), Grimsley 4-15 (Taylor 1-2, Wall 1-3, Wiggins 1-5, Nick Elliot 1-4, Watlington 0-1). Rebounds—Page 27 (Scovens 7), Grimsley 37 (Taylor 13). Assists—Page 15 (Blackwell 4), Grimsley 13 (Taylor 6). Total fouls—Page 14, Grimsley 7.

HAECOisHiring.com Invitational, Day 2

Smith's Nayshaun Hale dives after a loose ball as Greensboro Day's Jackson Noble attempts to recover during the first quarter on the second day of the HAECOisHiring.com Invitational at the Greensboro Coliseum - Special Events Center in Greensboro, N.C., on Tuesday, December 28, 2021.

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

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