What the team really needed was a good old fashioned dose of senior leadership. Enter Jodie Meeks.
The 6-foot-4 Kentucky-bound guard came out smoking in the first half to the tune of 18 points and set the tone for Norcross against Blair Academy in the semifinals of the tournament. It was his energy, leadership and all-out hustle that sparked Norcross to the halftime lead. They would go on and hold on for the 65-56 win over a game Blair bunch.
"Jodie Meeks is a phenomenal player," junior teammate Gani Lawal told Scout.com. "When you play with great players it's easier." Lawal contributed 17 points of his own and his rebounding out of his area was a key to the Norcross win.
Meeks understood that as the elder statesman of the bunch, he needed to set the tone. "I just came out aggressive," Meeks said. "They doubled Gani and I got my teammates involved."
The guard is hitting his stride as a senior and that's exactly where you want to be upon exiting high school. He'll be a versatile guard at Kentucky and adeptly handled Norcross' transition attack. He also overcame some defensive challenges.
Blair's Wellington Smith, who struggled mightily in the first half before finding his offense in the second, used his length and athleticism to slow Meeks after halftime. However, to Meeks' credit, he got back to his aggressive game in the final period and sealed up the win by making 5 free throws in the final quarter and finished with 29 points.
"He's a warrior," Lawal said. "He came out and wanted the win tonight."
Norcross will play Our Savior for the championship. Tim Ambrose's attacking style led Our Savior's upset of a road weary Episcopal Academy. He had 20 for the victors while Wayne Ellington and Gerald Henderson (pictured) combined to score 43 points, 23 and 20 respectively.
Gerald Henderson, SF, Episcopal – His team lost but Henderson's reaction to a tough situation earns him even more respect. Ambrose gave him a hard foul that resulted in a technical for the intentional shove. Unlike many of his peers if put in the same situation, he simply shrugged off the hit, wasn't interested in apologies and went to work making 8 free throws in 6.4 seconds to fuel a 13-2 run.
On the very next play after the foul, he attacked 6-10 Teeng Akol and tried to dunk on him before getting met at the rim and fouled. With tremendous toughness and zero ego, Henderson handled his business and should be applauded for his conduct.
Charles Dewhurst (shown), SF, Charlotte Latin – The guy is a basketball player, period. He hit for 13 and 16 rebounds. He got to the line 15 times. He's fairly versatile but is a hustler with the intangibles Charlotte can put to work.
Shamari Spears, F, Blair Academy – He played like a man when it came to rebounding as he battled Lawal. However, what really stood out was the effortless mid-range jump shots he was able to knockdown. He finished with a hard-earned 17 points.
Wellington Smith, SF, Blair – After a rocky beginning he raced out in the second half and was stellar at both ends. His active game and hustle resulted in 15 points, 12 in the second half. He's a grade better athlete than the Mountaineers have on their roster.
Patrick Hazell, PF, Blair – He's probably a mid-major guy at this stage but he's got bounce and in the second half exerted a tremendous amount of energy. He's that undersized guy that does well in the Atlantic 10, based off what we saw this time out.
Antonio Smith, SF, Victory Christian – Though he didn't enter the game until late in the 3rd quarter, you can tell he's got game. How good? Well, we didn't see enough to completely say and why he didn't get any burn earlier we'll never know. He's worth following and he's a native of Greenville, N.C.
North Mecklenburg's Jamie Skeen was in the building today. He's set to have surgery on a torn meniscus next week and will be out 4-to-6 weeks. …
South Carolina recruit Brandis Raley notched 24 points in his team's loss. … Garel Craig led Laurinburg with 18 points, Antoine Watson chimed in with 13. … Mark Caviness scored 29 points for a late-arriving Lutheran squad. … Doneal Mack hit for 29 for Statesville. … Stephen Curry, typically a big time shooter, made just 3-of-15 shots for 10 points for Charlotte Christian. … Jeremy Goode scored 22 for Providence Day. … Victory Christian's Jacolby Simpson, a football prospect, went for 22 and he's got some post moves. …
Gani Lawal reiterated a school list of Georgia Tech, Kentucky and Wake Forest. His mother said he wasn't down to three per se and added Duke and UNC to the mix. However, following the game, Gani mentioned his favorite three. … Showing early interest in Norcross junior point guard Tony Neysmith is Virginia Tech, Florida State, Tennessee, South Carolina and Illinois. … Memphis, UAB and FSU have called on Antoine Watson. …
Vince Jacobs committed to North Carolina to play football but don't be surprised if the 6-7 strong man power forward walks-on the hoops team and makes a few cameos every now and then. … Jeremy Goode is a nice player for Mount St. Mary's. On the college level he'll need to add a pull-up game since at his size he won't likely be able to get to the rim as he does in high school. …
"Put it this way, he knows a little English."