By the time a small but spirited group of Wesleyan Christian Academy fans began chanting “Walk home safely! Walk home safely!” the end of one of the most impressive streaks in the history of WNC high school basketball was seconds from becoming reality.
For five years and 81 consecutive games inside cozy Mebane Fieldhouse, Christ School had defended its turf, never losing a home game from Feb. 9, 2007 until a little after 7 p.m. Friday.
But a talented, quick team from High Point, coached by former Maryland guard Keith Gatlin, beat the Greenies soundly, the 61-48 final score padded by a couple of 3-pointers from Christ School reserves in the final minute.
“This is a big win for our program. We haven’t beaten them since I’ve been here, and I don’t know that we’ve ever beaten them,” said Gatlin, in his fourth year with the Trojans (8-0).
Learning his team had broken the 81-game winning streak, Gatlin said, “Wow! That makes this win even bigger and better.”
Christ School has meant excellence in prep basketball since David Gaines took over as coach. He has won six private school state titles since 2005, five straight from 2007-11.
But in this matchup of undefeated teams — Wesleyan Christian No. 1 in the state in the NCISAA 3-A rankings, the Greenies No. 2 — the better team won.
Breaking away from a close game in the third period, the Trojans used an 18-5 run to stretch a one-point lead to 50-32 early in the final quarter.
With a 37-30 lead late in the third quarter, Gatlin had his team hold the ball for the final two minutes, a quaint, old-school move reserved only for high schools in a shot-clock world of college and pro basketball.
The move forced the Greenies out of the zone and box-and-one it had used much of the game, and the Trojans’ quickness and length was too much for a Christ School team that lost for the first time in 12 games this season.
“I hate to see the streak end,” Gaines said.
“Not only did these kids have a part of the streak, but there are so many players in the past who had some ownership of it.”
Get away from the Greenie Dome and WNC basketball is played not from above the rim but below the nets, a Division I signee as rare as a state title.
But it’s a different game here, and most of the 10 starters in this game will likely go on to play on national TV.
The best player on the floor was a 14-year-old freshman, 6-8 Wesleyan post player Harry Giles (team-high 18 points), and Gaines has a 14-year-old eighth grader (6-5 wing DJ Harvey) and a ninth-grader (Timothy Walker) in his rotation.
“The high school game is so much different now,” Gatlin said. “The kids are so much bigger, stronger, faster, better prepared to play in atmospheres like this.”
“I love playing in these kinds of games against such good competition,” said Greenies’ senior Shannon Hale, who has committed to play at Alabama and finished with 19 points.
“It’s disappointing to see the streak end, but we got beat by a very good team. We have to put it behind us and go on to the next game.”
A new streak will get started no doubt, but six-plus seasons, 81 straight games?
We may have seen the last of that kind of greatness in high school basketball, a run like no other.