Carolina Forest boys top Conway, clinch playoff spot

mmckinnon@thesunnews.comFebruary 17, 2014 


— After a tough loss to Conway in January, the Carolina Forest boys basketball team was vying for redemption and a playoff spot.

The Panthers got both Monday.

Ryan Yurachek scored a team-high 16 points, Will Brunson added 12 and Carolina Forest never trailed throughout as it defeated the Tigers 70-58 for a spot in the Class AAAA playoffs.

“It’s a great win for us. I’m very proud of my teammates for the way they played and now we’re going to the playoffs,” Brunson said. “It’s always nice beating Conway because it was a little payback for last time at their place.”

In a late January contest, Conway held off Carolina Forest 83-81 in a heated battle.

The Panthers outscored the Tigers 12-6 in the first quarter on Monday and Carolina Forest held a 32-27 lead at halftime. Panthers coach Brian Brunson gave his bench credit for eating up minutes to help his starters stay fresh.

“I thought defensively we made some corrections and did some things in the second half to get some shots, force some tough shots,” Brian Brunson said. “[We] rebounded a little better on the defensive end. We got away from playing unselfish team ball there for a little stretch and we went to the bench. I think the bench played key minutes tonight and got our starters and experienced guys a little more on the same page. Down the stretch we managed to finish.”

The Panthers went 9-of-10 from the free-throw line in the final three minutes to put the game away.

“I think we did a better job offensively, executing and getting ourselves in position where we didn’t have to force the issue,” Brian Brunson said. “The clock became the opponent and wanted to milk it as much as we could. And we hit some free throws down the stretch so just all the components worked for us tonight. I’m just very, very proud of the guys.”

Coming off losses against South Florence and Sumter, Will Brunson stressed to his teammates that they needed to play unselfish.

“The past two games against South Florence and Sumter we didn’t play like a team and I feel like tonight we did,” he said.

Said Brian Brunson: “You always want momentum going into the playoffs. That’s a do-or-die situation. That’s what the playoffs are all about: Will your team rise and be able to play another day? I love the way they responded and hopefully we can do that on the road whoever we play.”

The Tigers were paced by Jalen Hennigan’s 18 points. Tyrell Denney added 12 points and Christian Jeffords scored 11 as Conway was eliminated from playoff contention.

“I call [the rivalry] brotherly love,” Brian Brunson said. “They fight all the time but when it’s all said and done, they all love each other. These are two communities that support their teams and it’s great for high school athletics; the atmosphere tonight was awesome.”

•  CONWAY (58) – Jalen Hennigan 18, Tyrell Denney 12, Christian Jeffords 11, Demar Williams 8, Shiheem Benson 2, Richardson 5, Venable 2

•  CAROLINA FOREST (70) – Zavier Jones 8, Chris Johnson 7, Parker Helgerson 6, T.J. Simmons 10, Duane Moss 5, Ryan Yurachek 16, Will Brunson 12, Jawan Butler-Stevens 6

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• 3-point goals: Conway 4 (Hennigan 4), Carolina Forest 1 (Johnson 1, Brunson 1). Team fouls: Conway 22, Carolina Forest 17. Fouled out: Hennigan (Conway), Samuel (Conway). Technical fouls: Hennigan (Conway), Yurachek (Carolina Forest).

• Records: Conway N/A, Carolina Forest 10-12 (4-4)

Contact MAX MCKINNON at 626-0302.

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