GARNER — Red-hot Garner entered Tuesday’s first round of the Class 4A basketball playoffs riding an 11-game winning streak. The Trojans stayed hot, rolling to a 103-62 victory over Lumberton, but the win might have come at a steep price.
Junior point guard Julius Barnes, one of the team’s leading scorers and the Trojans’ floor leader who always seems to be able to make a play when Garner needs it, injured his right ankle early in the third quarter. Barnes will have X-rays on the ankle Tuesday and is expected to miss Wednesday’s second-round game at fourth-seeded Millbrook.
“He had 18 points and had been shooting the ball very well at the point position,” Garner coach Eddie Gray said of Barnes. “You know, it is what it is. I told the guys after the game that somebody is going have to rise to the occasion and pick it up because we are going to play the game one way or another Wednesday.
“I'm sure somebody will step up. I told the kids that we were going to have to have one of our better practices (Tuesday) to get ready for the second round.”
Barnes had 15 first-half points, igniting a spurt late in the first period in which the Trojans pulled away from a 15-15 tie to lead 24-17 at the end of the first period. Barnes made a pair of 3-pointers and scored eight points as the Trojans went on a 9-2 run to end the period.
The Trojans (17-7 and the 13th seed in the East) rolled to 29 second-quarter points and led 53-33 at the break.
Barnes sank his fourth 3-pionter without a miss to begin the third period for the Trojans and then went up for another 3-pointer on Garner’s second possession. He missed and landed awkwardly on his right ankle, falling to the floor. Barnes stayed on the floor, clutching his ankle, until limping off. Minutes later, he went to the training room on crutches and was still on crutches after the game.
“It felt different than when I usually sprain it,” Barnes said. “It hurt more.”
With Barnes out and the Trojans’ offense misfiring for a couple of minutes, Lumberton went on a 7-0 run to cut the margin to 58-44 with 3:53 left in the third quarter. Garner righted itself and built the lead back up to 73-51 by the end of the period.
“Jaykwon Harris, a senior, came off the bench and did a good job of getting the ship back in the water,” Gray said. “He’s going to have to step up. We expect him to do the job. Darius Simmons is going to have to play some at (the point guard) position. We’ll find a way to put five guys on the court.”
In the fourth period, sophomore forward Jashuan Smith had dunks for three straight Trojans baskets, the third one coming on an off-the-backboard pass that brought the house down.
Garner kept the defensive pressure up throughout, forcing 41 Lumberton turnovers.
Smith finished with 20 points to lead the Trojans, Barnes had 18, freshman guard Thomas Allen scored 17 and Sammy Saunders finished with 13.
Lumberton (13-11), the 20th seed in the East, was led by senior forward Demetri Sheridan with a game-high 24 points. Sheridan was the lone Pirate in double figures.
“We had by far our worst game of the year,” Lumberton coach Mackie Register said. “Unfortunately, it was in the first round of the playoffs. But that is a real good team we played tonight. They are deep, athletic and had size on us.
“They took us away from a lot of things we like to, no doubt about it. … They are well-coached and played hard on defense. They are one of the best teams, if not the best team, we have played all year.”