By Lance Hickey
NBHS – North Buncombe basketball continued to prove its staying power in Western North Carolina high school hoops as both the boys and girls teams collected convincing victories over Asheville on Friday night.
In the first game of the evening, the North Buncombe girls squad (5-9, 3-4) took control of the game early in the third quarter, following an evenly-played first half with the score knotted at 36 apiece. The BlackHawks outscored Asheville 26-20 in the third period to take a six-point lead. They wouldn’t relent as the Kaitlyn Light-led North Buncombe girls collected an 81-75 victory over the Cougars. Light led the way for the BlackHawks with 29 points while Karlyn Pickens scored 25 points in the victory.
The North Buncombe boys (11-4, 6-2) also tallied a victory of its own over Asheville in front of a raucous Weaverville crowd.
Asheville’s Solomon Todd struck first on an acrobatic lay-up to give the Cougars an early 2-0 lead with a minute gone in the first quarter. Following several possessions, Asheville’s Dalvin Battle gave the Cougars a 12-6 lead on a fast break finish with two minutes remaining in the first period before North Buncombe’s Malachi Hammond connected on a deep three-pointer to get the BlackHawks within three points. Asheville led 14-9 at the end of the first quarter.
Star BlackHawk forward Ren Dyer began to come alive in the second quarter as both teams continued to trade baskets. A trifecta from Dyer brought North Buncombe within two points with the score at 16-14. A Jack Ritchie runner tied the ballgame for the BlackHawks at 16 apiece. North Buncombe took a 25-22 second quarter lead with 1:40 remaining on a Dyer post hook and alley-oop lay-in finish on their previous possession. The Cougars regained the lead on a driving runner just before the end of the half. Asheville led 26-25 at the half.
Asheville began the second half scorching. Two three-pointers from Asheville’s Tyrese Thompson and Troy Clement helped the Cougars maintain a 39-33 advantage with under five minutes remaining in the third quarter. A nifty Ritchie lay-in and fast break rim-shaking Dyer dunk brought the BlackHawks within two points before the end of the period. Asheville led 48-46 at the end of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter proved to be the time when North Buncombe’s light shined brightest as the BlackHawks began their push against a noticeably frustrated Cougar squad. A Dyer 15-footer brought the score within 50-48 following an Asheville score that put the Cougars up by four points.
North Buncombe would later tie the game at 55-55 on two free throws from Dyer following an Asheville technical foul. The BlackHawks regained the lead 57-55 on a Cougar turnover leading to another Dyer two-handed fast break slam. After an Asheville lay-up, Ritchie converted on a full-court-press-breaking lay-up with 1:23 remaining in the game.
North Buncombe didn’t look back as the BlackHawks went on to win 67-63 over a talented and athletic Asheville team. The BlackHawks will continue its push for a conference crown over the next several weeks, following victories over conference foes Asheville and A.C. Reynolds.