CAROLINA FOREST — Less than 24 hours after a close win over Andrews and on the first day of Winter break, St. James needed a reminder that basketball wasn’t taking an afternoon off.
The Sharks rebounded from a slow start to beat Carvers Bay 59-54 in the opening game of the Panther Classic at Carolina Forest Wednesday. And be it the quick turnaround or the look ahead to next week’s high-profile Beach Ball Classic, St. James relied on its newest strength to make sure it opened this tournament on a positive note.
Senior forward Tre McCallum led all scorers with 17 points, and he got plenty of help from fellow big men Matt Strange, Russ Sansbury and Haywood Brandon en route to the victory.
“We’ve never had that size, never had the scoring level, never had the level of basketball that Matt and Tre have,” coach Monty Carr said. “They now have a camaraderie of helping each other getting easy baskets. They look for that. They work really well together to get us that lead.”
The Sharks (6-1) have been almost primarily a guard-oriented team in the past. And while seniors Caleb Duggan, Brooks Hurston and Nehemiah Stafford give the team solid ball-handling, it was again the inside combinations that propelled St. James to a victory.
It certainly didn’t appear as if that was going to happen early.
Carvers Bay led by eight points midway through the first half. That’s when the Sharks went on a 19-5 run to end the first half.
St. James – and specifically McCallum – then continued that after halftime. The 6-foot-4 forward scored seven points in the opening 3:31 of the second half. St. James led by as many as 14 points after his bucket with 5:24 left in the game.
Like many of the others, it was a basket that was assisted by Strange.
“We’ve got to use that to our advantage,” McCallum said. “We’ve got size. We’ve got chemistry down low. With me and Matt, we can do that.”
Carvers Bay, 7-4 and ranked in the top 10 of the statewide coaches Class A poll, wasn’t done putting a scare into the Sharks. Senior guard Da’Shaun Aiken scored seven of his team-high 13 points in the final five minutes, and the Bears also got 3-pointers from DeQuan Wilson and Nigel Gamble to close the gap.
Duggan and freshman guard Jackson Hurston connected on all six of their free-throw attempts down the stretch to seal the victory.
And while Carr appreciated his team getting a close victory this time of the year, he still had aspects to stress, including 20 Shark turnovers and 18 Carvers Bay offensive rebounds.
“If we want to compete at the level we want, we’re going to need a whole lot more effort and correction; the kids need to be more serious,” Carr said. “We need to win some battles to learn how to win. When it comes to conference play, the more tough wins we get, the more confidence we will have in those conference games.”
• CARVERS BAY (54) – Da’Shaun Aiken 13, Shayton Durand 8, Shaquan Durand 8, DeQuan Wilson 6, Nigel Gamble 5, Chris Carter 5, Darius Williams 4, Rayshad Dorsey 3, T.J. Myers 2.
• ST. JAMES (59) – Tre McCallum 17, Caleb Duggan 9, Haywood Brandon 9, Russ Sansbury 8, Matt Strange 5, Jackson Hurston 5, Nehemiah Stafford 3, Tyrell Dukes 2, Brooks Hurston 1.
• Halftime: St. James 27-21. 3-point goals: Carvers Bay 4 (Aiken, Gamble, Dorsey, Carter); St. James 1 (J. Hurston). Team fouls: Carvers Bay 19, St. James 14. Fouled out: None. Technical fouls: Carvers Bay, Jeff Mezzatesta.
• Records: Carvers Bay 7-4; St. James 6-1.
Contact IAN GUERIN at email@example.com.