Senior forward Isaiah Wilder poured in 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds on Wednesday afternoon as Goldsboro High overcame a sluggish start to register a 68-54 triumph over Parrott Academy and advance to the second round of the FCA Winter Classic at Kornegay Arena.
Playing their first game in six days, the Cougars appeared sluggish at the outset, allowing Parrott clean looks from beyond the arc and an 26-23 advantage at halftime.
“I don’t want to be down at halftime,” Goldsboro head coach Jamaal Croom said post-game. “But we didn’t panic, I knew making slight adjustments that we would come out in the second half and respond.”
Goldsboro tightened its defensive screws and forced Parrott into a steady stream of turnovers, which allowed the Cougars to score points in transition.
“It definitely showed that we had a day or two of practice, and we struggled early in the game,” Croom said. “In the second half, we settled down, and we started to get back to Cougar basketball, and it showed in the outcome of the game.”
Over an eight-minute span that lasted the entire third quarter, Goldsboro’s swarming defense limited Parrott Academy to just 15 points and the Cougars were up 42-38 going into the fourth quarter.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Patriots scored to make the score 44-40, only to have Goldsboro counter with Wilder, who controlled the floor on both ends and propelled the Cougars into a 10-point lead with two minutes remaining in the contest.
Goldsboro made winning plays with the basketball from there, controlling the pace and getting to the free-throw line.
The Cougars down-the-stretch display of great basketball was punctuated by plays from Wilder, Xavion Atkinson and Christian Bullock, who stepped to the line and drained in a pair of free throws with 40 seconds remaining.
“Our key guys showed some poise,” Croom said. “We hit some shots, and we started pounding the ball inside, and that was the difference in the game.”
Parrott Academy (3-8), a balanced outfit out of the NCISAA Eastern Plains league, was led by Nick Harrison who scored 17 points and five three-pointers.
Atkinson finished with a game-high 21 points, while Bullock scored 14 points. There’s no time for Goldsboro to celebrate its most recent win, the Cougars take on Wayne Christian tonight in the second round. Tipoff is 7:30 p.m.
“We just have to do a better job of putting a complete game together,” Croom said. “Once we get deeper in the conference and the tournament, we can’t have moments where we check out in halves, we just have to avoid that.”