02/19/14 — Chargers work out kinks, oust Neuse Christian

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Chargers work out kinks, oust Neuse Christian

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 19, 2014 1:48 PM


Once Wayne Country Day worked out the kinks, its offense nearly looked like poetry in motion Tuesday evening.

The Chargers extended Neuse Christian's defense, capitalized on their quickness and rolled to an 81-65, opening-round victory in the 2014 N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Class 1-A basketball playoffs.

Senior guard Lee Atkinson poured in a game-high 25 points and dished out six assists for Wayne Country Day, which advanced to the elite eight for the second consecutive year and ninth time overall since 2004. The Chargers take on top-seeded and No. 1-ranked Trinity Christian of Fayetteville on Thursday.

Tip-off is 4 p.m. at Forsyth Country Day.

"I think we just had to get the nerves out (early)," Atkinson said. "We started to play as a team, getting the ball in the right spots and knocking down shots."

The teams battled to four ties and exchanged the lead on three occasions during the first 12-plus minutes of play. Neuse Christian forged ahead 25-24 on Justin Storey's traditional three-point play before WCDS answered with a 12-0 run.

Four Chargers scored during the momentum-changing offensive outburst, which ended on Shahim Muhammed's buzzer-beating shot just before halftime.

"We were sluggish in the first quarter, then we finally decided to step up play a little defense, get some rebounds and that helped push the tempo for us," WCDS head coach David Flowers said. "When we make shots, we're a good team."

The second half started on Atkinson's alley-oop pass to Joel Davis, who flushed home a two-handed dunk. The ninth-seeded Lions (17-10) scored on their second offensive possession of the half, but never recovered.

Neuse Christian's foul woes worsened.

WCDS began to spread the court, which set up one-on-one opportunities against the Lions' stretched defense. Atkinson, on two consecutive drives, coaxed Justin Storey and Matt Kalaf -- two of Neuse Christians' top scorers -- into their respective fifth fouls.

Atkinson drained all four free throws and shot 12 of 12 from the stripe on the night.

"They're good players and I knew they were in foul trouble," Atkinson said. "I tried to attack them and get them out of the game. It made a big difference. We noticed if we spread it out, we could get past them because they were quicker.

"We got to the rim and knocked down shots."

The Chargers connected on 27 field goals and outscored the Lions 19-4 at the free throw line. Joel Davis contributed 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Muhammed provided 18 points, five rebounds and four assists.

WCDS lost three regular-season meetings against Trinity. It's the fifth time since 2008 that the Chargers have been placed in the same bracket with the perennial powerhouse during the postseason.

"We don't need to worry about who they are, we just need to play our game," Atkinson said.