Over the years, there have been countless heavyweight bouts on the hardwood between the Greenfield School and Wayne Country Day boys basketball teams.
The teams added another chapter to the storied rivalry Friday night in Wilson, as this time it was the 2-A Knights coming away with a 71-60 victory to claim the 2-A/3-A Coastal Plain Independents Conference tournament crown.
Winning the title for the first time since 2022 after falling to the 2-A Chargers in the championship game last season, Greenfield improved to 28-6 with the win as it gets set to begin the NCISAA playoffs.
“This Wayne (Country Day) Greenfield rivalry is always going to be a war,” Greenfield head coach Rob Salter said.
Despite Friday night’s tournament finale featuring several momentum changes, the teams only traded the lead on one occasion.
With the game tied at 12 and time winding down in the first quarter, a missed straightaway 3-pointer by the Knights appeared as if it would end the opening frame.
Instead, Cole Evans tracked down the rebound in front of the Chargers’ bench and fired up a 3 of his own just before the buzzer, giving Greenfield the lead after eight minutes of play, one it would hold the remainder of the night.
“That 3 Cole Evans hit at the end of the first quarter I thought changed the game,” Salter said. “It gave us life, it gave us momentum, then the rest of the game was just a complete effort.”
The senior’s 3-pointer seemed to awaken the Knights offensively, as four different players combined to hit five 3s as part of a 24-4 run to open the second quarter.
The 20-point swing helped balloon the lead to 23 in just 4:52 of game time, as the home side appeared to be running away with the game.
Evans started a spurt of 13 straight points by Greenfield to open the quarter with another 3-pointer from the exact same spot as his buzzer-beating 3 to end the first.
Tyler Barnes, Gabe Marquis and Simon Quinn all added 3-pointers of their own to push the lead out to 28-12 at the 5:44 mark of the second.
Wayne Country Day senior Carlos Vasquez responded with a quick four-point run on his own, as he tried to keep his side within striking distance.
Instead, the Knights would score the next 11 points to go up 39-16 heading into the final three minutes of the first half.
Six of those points came from senior Matt Kirby, who scored a team-high 17 points on his way to being named tournament MVP.
“It means a lot because it shows how much work I’ve put in the offseason and throughout the season,” Kirby said. “I couldn’t do it without my teammates.”
Kirby started the run by going 4 of 4 from the free-throw line after drawing a foul which led to a technical foul being issued to the Chargers’ bench.
On the ensuing extra possession due to the technical, Kobe Edwards knocked down a jumper in the lane to make it a six-point trip down the floor for Greenfield.
Before Kirby capped the run with a score off a backcourt turnover, Barnes drilled his second 3 of the quarter.
Leading by 23, the Knights seemed to be well on their way to victory, but Wayne Country Day would not go down without a fight.
A 15-0 run to close the first half helped the Chargers pull back to within eight at 39-31 heading into the break.
Vazquez and Kyhiem Jones accounted for all 15 points during the run to help keep their team in the game.
Jones hit a pair of 3-pointers and added two free throws to finish off the run, while Vazquez drained a 3 of his own and added a pair of buckets in the paint.
“I give them credit, we got up 20 and they never quit,” Salter said. “We fell asleep defensively and they were killing us inside, but we made plays when we needed to.”
A back-and-forth third quarter saw Wayne Country Day pull within three, before the Knights stretched the lead back out to nine.
The Chargers were eventually able to cut the halftime deficit in half by the end of the third, as Greenfield clung to a 50-46 lead heading into the final eight minutes of play.
Despite countless attempts to put the game away in the fourth, the Knights found themselves still holding onto that four-point lead at 64-60 nearing the final minute of play.
“We always talk about keeping our composure when other teams go on a run and getting it back a little at a time,” Kirby said. “We’ve really been good at that all season.”
Greenfield then scored the final seven points of the game to claim the championship with the 11-point win.
With 1:04 left, Nik Edwards took an inbounds pass from Kobe Edwards on the inside and scored while drawing a foul.
“It’s always good to go out with a bang as conference champions,” Nik Edwards said. “Our senior leadership, plus our guard play from Kobe (Edwards) and Matt (Kirby) kept us poised and composed and I feel like we just executed better.”
Despite being unable to finish off the three-point play at the line, the play appeared to finally take the wind out of the Chargers’ sails.
Kirby and Kobe Edwards would combine to go 3-of-4 from the foul line after a pair of defensive stands.
Then, in the final seconds of the game, Nik Edwards put an exclamation point on the victory by throwing down a lob from Kirby for the game’s final points.
WAYNE COUNTRY DAY (60)
Jones 17, Solomon 13, Vazquez 19, Coles 11, Tyler, Mercer.
N. Edwards 16, Kirby 17, K. Edwards 12, Evans 6, Barnes 6, Marquis 11, Quinn 3.
Score by quarters:
WCD 12 19 15 14 — 60
GFS 15 24 11 21 — 71