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FAYETTEVILLE — Usually the matchups the first Tuesday after the Thanksgiving holiday tournaments don’t include too many teams ranked in the preseason top 10 but Henry County and Fayette County stepped on the hardwood together and put on an entertaining show.
Fayette County senior Noah Gurley owned the spotlight, scoring 31 points to help the Tigers remain unbeaten with a 79-65 victory over the shorthanded Warhawks.
A Furman signee and 6-7 wing player, Gurley put his versatility on display, nailing two 3-pointers, midrange jumpers and finishing four plays with dunks, including a two-handed flush over 6-6 center Kovi Tate.
Gurley shot 56 percent (14-of-25) overall and also finished with nine rebounds and three blocks.
“Noah is All-State,” Fayette County coach Andre Flynn said. “He can go inside out. He will probably play small forward at Furman. He can do it all and he’s going to defend and block shots. This was a good game for him because he’s got to pick up his game as far as being a physical player. They were banging him since he is kind of frail but he held his own and started using his athletic ability.”
Sophomore Josh Dupree and senior Phillip Young were also key offensively, scoring 19 and 17 points, respectively. Despite not scoring in double figures, senior Austin Nesmith was a bright spot, tallying a game-high 11 assists.
“Austin makes us go,” Flynn said. “I think he is one of the best point guards in the state. He is going to find the open man and he can shoot the three.”
Fayette County (2-0) opened the game with a 9-2 run, which was punctuated on back-to-back dunks by Dupree off a steal and Young on a putback. But the Warhawks (3-3) responded with the next 17 points for the first shift in momentum of the contest.
Tate’s first of three dunks sparked the run, which senior Seth Brown scored eight of his 17 points, including a coast-to-coast layup to cap the burst and propel Henry County to a 23-13 lead at the end of the first quarter.
However, the Tigers scored the first six points of the second quarter and kept chipping away at their deficit until a layup by Dupree tied the score at 25-25. Not long afterwards, Gurley found Dupree for a 3-pointer and the lead, which Fayette County never relinquished.
“We were giving them easy layups,” Gurley said. “They were going straight to the hole. Once we locked down and played defense, they stopped scoring. We gave up six points in the second quarter.”
Gurley capped that 11-0 burst with a dunk and the Tigers headed to the locker room with a 33-29 edge at halftime.
Following the break, the game remained close for the entire third period even though the Warhawks were able to withstand the excitement created from Gurley’s and-one dunk over Tate.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Fayette County led by five points and quickly stretched the margin to 59-47, thanks to a 3-pointer and pair of free throws by Young and a layup by Gurley. From there on, the Tigers didn’t let Henry County get any closer than 10.
“We are still learning,” Flynn said. “Henry County is a great team. They were real physical. That is where we need to get. We had to adjust our game. We got kind of happy there and started taking too many jumpshots and they kept running out on us–that is not who we are. Once we focused in, started executing and playing better defense we were able to slow them down. The guys just kept fighting and stayed the course.”
Javon Greene, who made a living from the foul line, led the Warhawks with 19 points while fellow senior Damion Rosser could only watch from the bench due to an ankle injury suffered against Newton.