First game of basketball season: Johnniyus Sharpe quarterbacks basketball team – about like he did for football squad
By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
This was just the beginning, so imagine what might be in store for the Cummings boys’ basketball team.
The Cavaliers were full of late-game dramatics in the season opener with a 54-50 comeback victory against host Williams on Tuesday night.
“It’s a rivalry game,” Cummings guard Johnniyus Sharpe said afterwards. “Not only that, it’s the first game, and it was a hostile environment, so you’ve got to put on for the city.”
“We started out really slow and we worked our way up. First-game jitters. Just get little rust patches off. Once I find a rhythm, you can see I can get going real fast. Not just myself, I can get my teammates involved, too.”
– Cummings guard and high-scorer Johnniyus Sharpe on come-from-behind win over cross-town rival williams
Sharpe was up to the task down the stretch, putting the finishing touches on a 32-point performance when it mattered most.
“It helps quite a bit,” Cummings coach Chas Criss said of having Sharpe with the ball in crucial situations.
Cummings brought its high-flying act across town, and for a long time it looked like the Bulldogs might steal the show.
“First game is all hit and miss,” Criss said, noting his team had six practices following the school’s football team, which included Sharpe as quarterback, reaching the third round of the state playoffs. “I’ll never complain about how hard our kids play. We had to scrap and claw and try to get a stop.”
“First game is all hit and miss. . . I’ll never complain about how hard our kids play. We had to scrap and claw and try to get a stop.”
– Cummings coach Chas Criss
“We had complete control of the game until the last couple of minutes.”
– Williams coach Tommy Cole
Williams had relentless stretches of offensive rebounding. Combine that with out of control moments from the Cummings side, and the Bulldogs were right where they wanted to be in the waning minutes.
“We had complete control of the game until the last couple of minutes,” Williams coach Tommy Cole said.
Cummings slapped on a full-court press, and suddenly the Bulldogs were disjointed – and even unable to convert what looked like good scoring chances.
“The fear sets in,” Cole said.
Sharpe wanted the ball.
“I just feel like my coach and my teammates believe in me, so I just had to do what I had to do for the team,” Sharpe said. “You’ve got to take the right shot at that right moment.”
During the closing minutes, Sharpe exited briefly with a leg cramp.
“What they say: Minor setback for a major comeback,” he said.
Cam’ron Jones’ three-point play gave the Bulldogs a 41-36 edge. Then the Cavaliers rattled off six points in less than a minute, capped by Ja’Kway Robertson’s bucket on a fastbreak for a 45-44 lead.
The Bulldogs were back in front on Greysen McCadden’s three-point play at the 2:17 mark. Sharpe then scored eight of the final nine Cummings points.
Yet Williams took a 50-49 lead when Milton Turner drained two free throws with 24.2 seconds left. Sharpe was fouled on a 3-point attempt, making all three attempts from the foul line with 12.4 seconds to play.
A turnover on a held ball gave Cummings possession again before two more foul shots for Sharpe to seal the outcome.
“It was a typical Williams-Cummings game,” Cole said. “It’s not the first time I’ve lost to Cummings. I guess I’m too old for moral victories.”
Cole, a veteran coach, missed both meetings last season vs. Cummings while on medical leave.
It took time for the Cavaliers to find a groove.
“We had to make adjustments,” Cummings guard Ramael Warren said. “It just started with defense and getting the ball up ahead (in transition).”
The Bulldogs led 14-6 after the first quarter and 34-32 through three quarters.
“We started out really slow and we worked our way up,” Sharpe said. “First-game jitters. Just get little rust patches off. Once I find a rhythm, you can see I can get going real fast. Not just myself, I can get my teammates involved, too.”
Sharpe was 17-for-21 on free throws, while the rest of his team was 5-for-8 at the line. Williams was 13-for-17.
Robertson was second for the Cavaliers in scoring with seven points.
For the Bulldogs, Jones racked up 15 points and McCadden finished with 11 points.
In the girls’ game, Williams overwhelmed Cummings for a 55-8 victory, with Briahna Scott posting 16 points and 12 rebounds. Amira Lunsford added 12 points and Scout Winter had 11 points.
Also Tuesday, Western Alamance’s girls improved to 2-0 by winning 58-49 at Eastern Randolph.