KERNERSVILLE - In an all too familiar fashion, Starmount dropped its opening round matchup to North Davidson Wednesday night in the 38th Annual Frank Spencer Holiday Classic.
The Rams fell behind early before seeing their second-half comeback come up short, dropping a 70-49 decision to an over-sized and over-powering Black Knight squad at East Forsyth.
“That’s been the story of our season,” head coach Rocky Horton explained. “First quarter, four points and then we come out and get 14 in the second. And then we get beat on transition defense. They beat us at something that we like to do against other teams.
“Tonight we looked like we ate too much for Christmas and weren’t ready to come out and hustle. It didn’t seem like we had our heads into it until it started to get out of control; then our guys seem to show up and play. We did have some guys who tried to lead this team, we just need everybody else to buy in and join on board with them,” he added.
Starmount could not find its rhythm coming off the Christmas holiday, going scoreless for over four minutes to open the game and only scoring four total points in the first quarter.
A lanky North Davidson side jumped out to a 10-4 lead after one and never trailed as the Rams found their shooting stroke in the second period.
Powered by senior Nathan Williams’ eight points, including a personal 5-0 burst in the opening minutes of the quarter, the Rams scored 14 points in the frame. But the Knights matched each score and poured in 23 points in the period to take a comfortable 33-18 advantage into the locker room.
Starmount scored 31 second-half points to stay within striking distance, but were unable to slow down hot-shooting North. The Knights scored 37 points after halftime to cruise to the 70-49 victory to advance in the Pepsi bracket of the holiday classic.
“That’s how we’ve been, digging ourselves into a hole that we can’t get out of,” Horton said. “We do a good job of getting to the basket, but we just have to finish. I think tonight we actually did a better job of shooting free throws, we just didn’t shoot enough of them.
“They did a good job of blocking shots when we drove to the basket. We’re small and they had good size and height. I can’t blame it on all youth and inexperience just because we have a bunch of freshmen and sophomores playing. We just have to be more forceful with the issue,” he continued.
Freshman Kyler Gregory had his breakout game of the season, recording a team-high 10 points on the night. Luke Shore finished nine points, while Williams added eight.
“Kyler kind of came out of his shell today; it was exciting to see,” Horton explained. “That’s something we’ve been waiting on some other guys to do, but it was good for him to do it now. Hopefully that carries onto later games. If he can keep that up and be a scoring threat, that’ll be great for our team.
“We knew coming into this Christmas tournament and stepping away from conference play, we wanted to give some people some minutes and an opportunity. We tell them when they go on the court, that’s their opportunity,” he added.
With the loss, Starmount falls into the loser bracket and will return to action tomorrow afternoon. The Rams will take on 8th-seeded Atkins at 12:45 at East Forsyth.
Horton says he will focus on transition defense and finishing shots in the second game of the Christmas tournament.
“Us getting back in defense on transition and finishing shots - that’s been the story of the year for us,” he said. “We need to believe in each other. We put up good fights and good runs after getting down. We just have to put together 32 minutes of that, for four quarters, every game. Hopefully, in time, that will come when these guys get more experience.”
In other games around the tournament, top-seeded West Forsyth knocked off Atkins to advance. McMichael breezed past Parkland, while Forsyth Country Day topped Carver. West will take on North Davidson in the first semifinal before McMichael and Forsyth Country Day square off in semifinal No. 2.
Championship action will be played at Lawrence Joel Coliseum on the campus of Wake Forest University Friday night.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.