Payne-ful experience for the Cougars

Published 7:54 am Tuesday, February 14, 2023

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Gary Payne dominated on both ends of the floor Monday night and led Washington High School to an 80-71 victory over SouthWest Edgecombe in the first round of the Eastern Plains Conference Tournament.

The 6’5 junior post player scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the Pam Pack’s final home game, barring post-season tournament upsets.

“Gary just put us on his back tonight and carried us to the win,” coach David Allewalt said. “He’s been averaging a double-double for us the last six or seven games and he controlled the boards and was open all night on offense. He was not going to let us lose.”

The Pack (13-12) finished third in the EPC during the regular season, while the Cougars (7-15) were sixth with two losses to WHS.

However, they found the range from three-point land throughout the game and led 40-38 at halftime and 61-60 starting the fourth quarter.

WHS went up by six early in the final quarter, then the Cougars cut it to two points before committing an over and back violation, then failed to box out on consecutive missed free throws that Washington’s Jayvon Williams and Payne turned into offensive rebounds.

Jerai Davenport hit a pair of free throws and Payne made a layup off the extra possessions to ice the win.

Williams finished with 18 points, Smith had 16 and Davenport added 14 as the Pack will travel to second-place Greene Central (20-5) for Wednesday’s semi-final.

“We were in both games with them earlier, so it will be a good-matchup,” Allewalt said. “We’ve played on the road a lot against good teams and hopefully that experience will help us Wednesday night.”

The EPC championship game is Friday and 2A state tournament seeds will be announced Saturday.