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SMITHFIELD — From start to finish, Neuse Charter freshman Sire Holmes was there to keep his basketball team just ahead of Hobbton on Friday night in a 68-54 victory.
With just as many points in the first half as the second — 11 — the 5-foot-7 guard proved to be a consistent shooter, with 22 points that led the Cougars to their second of 1-A Carolina Conference play in as many games.
“My teammates, they did a good job of moving the ball,” Holmes said after his performance. “They made the extra pass when they needed, and defensive intensity led to open-court plays and transition buckets.”
Holmes made four 3-pointers all by himself, including three in the first half, inspiring what was a strong showing from beyond the arc for Neuse Charter. 30 of the team’s 68 points came from 3-point land, showing off just how hard the team works on shooting every day in practice.
“It helped tremendously,” head coach Dustin Squibb said of the shooting from deep. “We work on it in practice a lot. We try to get each player at least 100 game shots in every practice and I think it has really helped us. A lot of our offense is from set shots. We don’t do a whole lot off the dribble, unless it’s off of a ball screen.”
Neuse Charter began the game on a 6-0 run and seemingly stayed ahead of Hobbton by that much or more the rest of the game. The Cougars led by 10 points after the first quarter, and, despite a lackadasical showing on defense in the second, went into halftime up nine points.
In addition to Holmes, senior Jamir Ledbetter scored 10 points to pace Neuse Charter in the first half.
From there, as Squibb put it, the Cougars “never let up.”
Despite an inspired 12-point effort in the second half from Hobbton senior Jordan Pearsall, following no points in the first half, Hobbton never quite found the run to make things close.
Any time it started to narrow the deficit, Holmes, or another one of his teammates, was there to answer with a basket. Holmes in particular was aided by a resurgence from sophomore teammate Eli Ayers in the second half. Ayers, a 6-foot-4 player who had a relatively quiet start to the game, scored 11 points in the second half, including a crucial four that put the game away.
Ayers was fouled hard on the floor by Pearsall with two minutes remaining, then Pearsall was given a technical foul when the play continued to bubble over, giving Ayers the possibility of as many as four free throws — and the ball — with the technical foul shots, then the one-and-one. Ayers made all four free throws to lengthen the lead to 11 points, and after a couple minutes of intentional fouls, the Cougars exited with a 14-point victory.
“Toward the end of the game, we needed someone to step up and him and Sire consistently continue to step up for us,” Squibb said.
A dominant showing was important for Neuse Charter as the program looks to rival for the top of the conference this season. With a young core, Squibb and his team know every victory in league play is important to reaching that goal.
“Every night, you’re playing for first place. Tonight, we’re playing for first place in a team like Hobbton because those are one of those teams that are always going to give you everything they have,” Squibb said. “I expect a very competitive conference this year and we have big goals, big plans. We’re extremely young, we have nine freshmen and sophomores, but we hope to be in the midst at the end of the season.”
Holliday 8, Warren 4, Pearsall 12, Weeks 14, Smith 10, Martinez 2, Britt 4.
Neuse Charter (68)
Holmes 22, Ledbetter 12, McGee 3, Phillips 3, Danielson 2, Denton 8, Tucker 7, Ayers 11.
Score by quarters:
Hobbton 10 15 13 16 — 54
Neuse Charter 20 14 11 23 — 68