It took just one week of postseason for High School basketball to end in Rutherford County.
R-S Central (21-8) went the furthest of all four teams in the postseason. The Hilltoppers defeated Shelby for the third time this season with a 60-56 win in the first round of the 2A playoffs. Central then beat maybe the best zone defense I have seen in my years of covering basketball in defeating Maiden 44-37 in the second round. In the third round, Central led 44-37 early in the third quarter, but a scoring drought allowed East Lincoln to bypass them and fall 79-69. Central, who was the 6-seed in the 2A West shared the SW regular season conference title, won the conference tourney and went 6-0 against Shelby and East Rutherford this season. It also marked the first time in 17 years that Central had won a Conference Tourney.
Heralded Conference MVP, Zyrion Wilkins (22 points and 9 rebounds per game) high basketball career is over. His senior teammates in Malik Hipp-Smith, Jalen Singleton, Lorenzo Woods, Josh Wharton and Arnie Twitty are done as well.
Twitty and Wharton started most games with Twitty being a consistent force inside. Wharton had some good games. The two that stood out were against McDowell in the first meeting and late in the Maiden game. The Hilltoppers could have six key pieces back next year with Elijah Carson, Jacob Knox, Cooks, Tyler Whiteside, Jayden Waddell and Tyion Watkins.
Despite getting injured late, the Cavaliers mildly upset South Point in the first round of the playoffs 82-78. The season ended two nights later as a surging Salisbury easily beat East 97-60 in round two.
Late in the season, things had finally came together for the East Rutherford (19-10) by winning six of seven games and making them dangerous. However, Hampton injured his eye, Searcy broke a finger and Carson plus Gardner went down with ankle injuries.
The Cavs will miss a bunch of key pieces next year including their best in Josh Searcy. Cameron Hampton, Eddie Gardner, Chase Tate, Ryan Carson and Lucas Montieth are all seniors.
Gardner was a reliable point guard, Hampton was hitting 3's from all over, Carson emerged as a catalyst in the East season, but Searcy was no doubt the leader.
They should have Christian Walker, Tyemond Twitty, Quay Logan, Owen Chapman, Jordan Harris and Isaiah Lathan back.
Many thought East Rutherford (23-4) could make a long playoff run, but an always tough Forbush team had other plans in a 71-65 second round loss. The Lady Cavs won in round one easily over East Henderson as the 7-seed 66-39.
The Lady Cavs won the regular season conference title and tourney this season and had a great year. Paris Baker, who I thought was the most improved player in the last year among the East ladies ended her high school career. Seniors...Kendra Ross (1,000-point career scorer), Shyon Randolph, Claire Jackson and Charmee Miller are also done as well.
The Lady Hilltoppers found a tough first round draw as they faced East Burke for the third time this season, but had lost in double digits both times. However, R-S Central (15-13) improved more-so with a healed Jada Logan back in the lineup. Central fell as the 29-seed by a 55-49 count in the third meeting.
Central had just three seniors, but Aliyah Whiteside (18 points per game) led the way in a valiant effort
Haley White and Chloe Parton also finished their high school basketball careers last week. Central is young and as many as eight ladies could return for next season.