Eastern Randolph coach Johnny Thomas consoles Devonte Brooks, left, as Will Stalker looks on after the Class 1-A state final. (PJ Ward-Brown/Randolph Record)
RALEIGH – The greatest basketball season in the history of Eastern Randolph had a sour ending.
The Wildcats needed one more comeback and couldn’t quite generate it, falling 84-73 to Wilson Prep in the Class 1-A state championship game for boys’ basketball Saturday afternoon at Reynolds Coliseum.
“These boys have dedicated everything they possibly could to the sport of basketball the last four months,” Eastern Randolph coach Johnny Thomas said. “We have nothing to be sad over.”
But that was the mode for the Wildcats (29-3), whose knack for generating excitement the past few months lasted all the way until the final minute.
Eastern Randolph just didn’t quite have enough. Wilson Prep (27-7) won the Class 1-A title for the second time in three years.
Thomas offered perspective as his first season concluded.
“One year ago, they come out and got 8-15 for the season,” he said. “We turned it into a 29-3 season. I’m proud of them. … This moment is sad right now, but when we look back on it, it’s going to be one of the most highlighted moments of these guys’ careers.”
Devonte Brooks churned out 34 points – 17 in each half – and 18 rebounds in his last game for Eastern Randolph. Teammate Timothy Brower posted 20 points and eight rebounds.
Eastern Randolph rallied from an 11-point first-half deficit to surge into the lead. Wilson Prep led 37-36 at halftime.
The Tigers built a 14-point lead in the third quarter, but the Wildcats were unfazed. They had overcome a 21-point second-half hole a week earlier in the West Region final against Bishop McGuinness and nearly pulled off another improbable comeback.
Eastern Randolph was within 73-70 and later pulled within 76-73. Wilson Prep scored the game’s last eight points.
The Tigers had to dig deep to withstand the Wildcats’ late push amid a wild environment.
“It shows you how tough mentally they are,” Wilson Prep coach Anthony Atkinson Jr. said. “The arena was crazy. To play in the environment like that.”
Jahmar Jones scored 20 points for Wilson Prep. Teammate Davis Ellis had 14 points and 19 rebounds and was named the Most Valuable Player from Wilson Prep.
Early on, Eastern Randolph struggled. Wilson Prep went up 13-2 as the Wildcats committed six turnovers.
“I understand the nerves,” Thomas said.