WEAVERVILLE – Reynolds wasn’t the best team all season long in the Mountain Athletic Conference.
But the Rockets are the best team right now.
The 12th seed in the NCHSAA 3-A boys basketball playoffs dictated the pace Thursday night and got double figures from four different sources – Costa Poulos (17 points), Weston Hurd (16), Zack Brown (15) and Josh Jones (13) – to win, 72-63, at No. 5 North Buncombe.
Poulos and Jones, two of the team’s seven seniors, combined for 24 points in the fourth quarter. Eleven of those points were free throws for Jones.
Reynolds (16-11) finished third in the MAC 3-A division behind regular-season champion North Buncombe (19-6) and runner-up Asheville High (16-8).
However, the Rockets have gotten hot at the right time. They beat Asheville and North Buncombe in last week’s MAC 3-A tournament and are home for Saturday’s sectional final against No. 13 Morganton Freedom (20-7).
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
“We’re having a ton of fun right now,” Reynolds coach Clint Loftin said.
“What we keep stressing to our kids though is don’t let anyone make this any bigger than it is. It’s just another opportunity to keep playing. And if we keep playing together the way we have, I like this team’s chances.”
A sizable crowd gathered for Thursday’s fourth meeting of the season between the Rockets and Black Hawks even though it was blowing snow outside.
The Reynolds boys took a 15-9 lead after the first quarter and a double-digit advantage to their locker room at halftime. Every time the Black Hawks and Brennan Howard (42 points) tried to mount a rally, Reynolds had an answer. Howard nailed five 3-pointers and had 20 points in the fourth quarter alone.
North Buncombe was the last team to beat the Rockets — a 98-92 game back on Feb. 12 in Weaverville that was the final regular-season game for both teams. Reynolds was reeling at the time, having also lost successive games to McDowell (75-63 on Feb. 5) and Roberson (59-52 on Feb. 9).
And now? The Rockets are the last MAC boys team left in the state playoffs.
“We had a tough ending to the season and we all realized that we weren’t playing the game the way we were supposed to,” said Hurd, who is a senior.
“Since then we’ve been in a better mindset. The seven seniors on this team all know time is running out. We’re trying to make the most out of every opportunity.”
As one would expect, Saturday’s opponent is formidable. Freedom is coached by former Western Carolina University standout Casey Rogers and won the 3-A state championship just two years ago. The Patriots were 3-0 in games played this season against Western North Carolina opponents (two wins over McDowell and one over Erwin).