The Jags are in town so get there early Friday

Published 11:16 am Wednesday, January 3, 2024

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Big games in any sport are fun. They are also few and far between, which makes them even more special. Friday night at Dave Smith Gym has a chance to be just that as long as the home team shows up. We know the visitors, none other than Eastern powerhouse Farmville Central, will definitely be there.

The Washington boys basketball team entered the season with high hopes of making a deep playoff run and have found success for the most part so far. Their 7-3 record could be better as they led Hertford Co. late in regulation and each of the four overtimes before losing 100-99. They lost to an undefeated 4A South Central team on the road early, then dropped a 12-point decision to 1A Southern Wake Academy in the just completed Goldsboro Holiday tournament.

They showed flashes of brilliance in seven victories over solid opponents that included dogged defense that forced steals which led to easy dunks, three-pointers dropping from everywhere and overall intensity which created blowout victories.

They’ll need that kind of play and maybe more against the Jaguars, who are 9-1 after a loss to 2A Reidsville in the John Wall Holiday tournament in Raleigh last week. They beat Broughton and Durham Jordan, both 4A schools to finish fifth.

The Jags defeated Reidsville for their fifth 2A state title in six years back in March to complete a 30-1 season.

The Pack will be in trouble if they get caught up in playing the Farmville Central program instead of the team in front of them on the floor.

Sophomore point guard Chaise Smith continues to elevate his game and leads the team with 20.6 points a game to go along with 6.5 assists, 5.5 rebounds and four steals.

Junior Javon Williams adds 15.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists, while senior post player Gary Payne scores 13 and grabs 10 rebounds a game. Younger brother Jarryn Payne and senior guard Jerai Davenport contribute nine points a game.

The Jags have balanced scoring as well with seniors Tyler Whitehurst (14.9), Hampton Evans (12.2), JD Daniels (10.7) and junior MJ Williams (14.2) leading the way.

One of the early keys will be how the Pam Pack handles the Jags pressure defense. The visitors like to jump on teams early, then run the clock in the second half to end games early. Their average margin of victory is 35 points.

My advice is to arrive early, maybe for the JV game tipoff at 4:30 to get a good seat. All seats are general admission and bleacher-style. The gym holds around 1,200 according to athletic director Will Tyson, who said fans will not be allowed to stand close to the court or under the baskets. Tyson added that extra security will be on hand. Admission is $8 for the JV; girls varsity and boys varsity games and the concession stand will be open.

I expect the WHS students to be their usually boisterous selves, which will help provide an excellent atmosphere.

This is a much bigger game for the Pack than it is for Farmville Central, which thrives in hostile environments.

Has Washington closed the gap on the titans of the East? Friday night will help us find out. If you only go to one high school game a year, this one will be worth your time. Oh, by the way, this is a conference game, so the rematch will be next month in Farmville