0

Moving on
Witherspoon scores 32 as Patriots top Jackets

LILBURN - After a quarter in Friday's Class AAAAA boys basketball tournament opener, Wesley Witherspoon's stat line was rough.

It was full of zeros - 0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists and 0-for-2 shooting.

Fortunately, the highly touted senior made up for it in a big way over the final three quarters.

Witherspoon had 32 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots as host Berkmar held off pesky Sprayberry 74-66 in the Patriots' first state-tournament appearance since 2005. Witherspoon also eclisped the 1,000-career scoring mark as Berkmar moves on to host a second-round game on Tuesday at 7 p.m. against South Forsyth.

"It's a great feeling to get (Berkmar) back in the state tournament and win," Witherspoon said after putting on a show for good friend and Wesleyan star Howard Thompkins, who took in the game from the first row. "We've got to keep it going now. We're happy but we're not satisfied."

Witherspoon's slow start was a small part of his team's rough beginning. Berkmar (22-5) had eight first-quarter turnovers and made just 3 of 8 shots.

But the Patriots opened up a 28-24 halftime lead by pounding the ball inside to the 6-foot-8 Witherspoon, a major matchup problem for a Sprayberry team short on height.

"We dropped in there and (Witherspoon) gave us some energy and some easy baskets," Berkmar boys coach Tommy McWhorter said.

The big second quarter sparked Witherspoon, who is still undecided on a college and is traveling to No. 1 Memphis today for its game with No. 2 Tennessee, to a huge night.

He finished 12 of 17 from the floor, including 10 of 11 from 2-point range.

"Our impatience early kind of took (Witherspoon) out of the game and made him nonexistent," McWhorter said.

Witherspoon continued to deliver in the third quarter with 10 points, and so did teammate De'Marion Gordon, who scored seven of his 19 points in the third quarter. Gordon also led Berkmar with four assists and added six rebounds, while Stavantae Rucker finished with 10 points. The Patriots led 51-41 after three quarters and led by double figures most of the fourth quarter, although Sprayberry (12-16) kept rallying. But the Yellow Jackets never got closer than seven points in the final period.

Sprayberry was led by William Marsh (14 points), Colin Slotter (12 points), Omari Murray (12 points) and Preston Brooks (10 points).

The visitors had a 25-for-51 shooting night (49.0 percent) as Berkmar didn't have a great defensive performance.

"I thought we played sluggish," McWhorter said. "There was no energy tonight. We tried to outscore those guys. There was no defense. I won't say it was the worst (defensive game we've played), but it was one of them."