LEWISVILLE, N.C. – Eleven days ago, like everyone else in the country, 22 Ft Academy (Greenville, S.C.) guard Clifton Powell Jr. saw the news of Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) forward Harry Giles III, a Duke signee who is ranked No. 1 overall in the ESPN 100, going down in the Warriors’ season-opening win with a torn ACL.
Powell had known for months that he and his teammates were playing the Warriors, who are ranked No. 3 in the Super 25, at the Phenom Hoop Showcase and the news of Giles’ unfortunate injury didn’t change Powell’s and his teammates’ thoughts on the outcome.
“We felt like we were going to win no matter who they had,” Powell said. “He’s a great player, but we were focused on how we were gonna play and that didn’t have anything to do with who was suiting up for them.”
That introspective approach paid of Saturday when 22 Ft (4-1) shocked Oak Hill (3-1) 70-67.
Eli Wright led 22 Ft with 20 points, Powell chipped in with 10 and Justin Miller added 13.
Mario Kegler led Oak Hill with 16 points and Braxton Key added 15.
“I can’t even tell you how great this feels,” Miller said. “I’m telling you we knew we were going to win well before Harry got hurt. I just felt like Jesus was with us on this one. We played our hearts out; we never quit.”
They needed that relentless mindset to overcome the 18-point deficit they faced coming out of halftime.
“We weren’t doing what we prepared to do,” 22 Ft coach Ryan Schmidt said. “So it was really a matter of getting us to believe that we could come back by playing team basketball.”
Miller gave 22 Ft its first lead, 64-61, with just over two minutes left in regulation on a three-pointer from the top of the key and it never relinquished it after. Oak Hill point guard Matt Coleman’s last second three missed off the side of the rim and 22 Ft secured the rebound and the win.
“This is a big win, for sure, but, at the end of the day, it simply shows our guys that if we come to play we can beat anybody,” Schmidt said. “And with the loss that we had earlier this season we learned that if we don’t come to play we can lose to anybody.”
Coleman said the sound of the 22 Ft players celebrating in the locker room after the win is something that will be firmly implanted in his mind “for a while.”
“I didn’t like that, but they won so what can I say,” Coleman said. “We just didn’t play well. We gave up an 18-point lead and we didn’t come out aggressive… It’s just something to learn from. This isn’t a good feeling. I’m not gonna feel like this again.”
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