Cox Mill basketball coach Jody Barbee doesn’t believe junior standout Wendell Moore Jr. is getting enough respect for his work on the hardwood.
Maybe another prolific scoring performance at the Beach Ball Classic will make doubters believers.
Moore filled the bucket to the tune of 32 points on Thursday, helping Cox Mill overcome an early deficit to knock off Clark (Nev.) in the tourney’s quarterfinal round. He accomplished it on 10-of-17 shooting, while converting 10 of his 11 free throws.
“He’s good, he’s flat out good,” Barbee said. “I think he’s underrated in (Class of 2019 player) rankings. We don’t care about the rankings, though, he’s never been big on those.
“You see his game. You can’t hurry him, and you won’t rush him. He’s already playing a pro’s game with some of the things he does, so I think he played well today.”
Through two games, Moore has scored 61 points, a tournament high.
“Sixty-one points through two games … for a tournament that might be a high for me,” Moore said. “My teammates are just getting me involved in the offense, and I’m just making shots.”
It took a while for Cox Mill to settle into the contest, as it was plagued by turnovers and foul problems early on. According to Barbee, the rough start served as a good omen for his team.
“I told them this game was a bit like the one we played in the state championship,” he said. “It was kind of a grind-it-out game, sort of like the one (Thursday) was. We won that one, and I felt if we stuck with it that we could do the same in this one as well.”
Despite shooting 8-of-28 from the field in the first half, Cox Mill found itself down by only three points at the break. Moore’s ability to get to the rim was largely responsible for the close margin, scoring 15 of his team’s 24 points during the opening frame.
In addition to Moore’s scoring prowess, a subtle coaching adjustment also helped shift momentum to the Cox Mill bench.
“Against zones, teams are going to play us that way thinking we can’t shoot the ball,” Barbee said. “We feel like if we can get the lead, we’re going to slow things down a bit. I wanted to get it to where we could get the ball down to (Rechon “Leaky Black) or Wendell and get shots at the rim.”
On multiple possessions, Cox Mill bled the clock for 60 and 90 seconds. The result of those was an easy Moore bucket and a 3-pointer by senior guard Jalen Bynum.
Another key to the game – at least in the belief of Clark basketball coach Chad Beeten – was the number of turnovers forced by Cox Mill.
“Turnovers were enormous today,” he said. “We had 20 to their 12. They shoot 36 percent from the floor while we shot 45 percent.
“That’s it. You can’t turn the ball over that many times and expect to win. We expected it, and there were times we handled it well. But there were times we got soft with the ball, made bad decisions and it gave them the break they needed.”
Gregory Foster led Clark with 12 points, while Antwon Jackson had 10 of his own in a losing cause.
In its first trip to the Beach Ball Classic, Cox Mill finds itself in its final four. On Friday, it will take on either Long Island Lutheran (N.Y.) or Moeller (Ohio). Recalling its bad experience last year at the John Wall Holiday Invitational in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday’s win draws the team a step closer to making amends.