The buzz centered on starting point guards Larry Drew and John Wall, but sophomore standout C.J. Leslie stole the show. The 6-foot-8 forward grabbed boards, blocked shots, and converted in the paint to lead Word of God past Taft 55-52 in the semifinals of the 8-Team Boys Tournament. Leslie tallied 16 points and 12 rebounds on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. He also added three blocks for the Holy Rams.
Most considered it an upset, as Taft has at least three Division I prospects including Drew (North Carolina) and Justin Phelps (Long Beach State). Word of God head coach Levi Beckwith certainly didn't think that was the case.
"We've got the top junior point guard in the country and one of the top 10 sophomores in the country, so I don't consider this an upset at all," said Beckwith.
Drew and Wall both struggled offensively in a game that wasn't pretty. Both did a good job of penetrating and finding open players but neither had a good night shooting as Drew finished with 13 and Wall 11.
Word of God advances to the finals where they will face DeMatha at 9:00 tonight. DeMatha defeated Kinston 65-63 in the other semifinal.
WOG 11 11 18 15 – 55
Taft 13 9 15 15 – 52
WOG: Beckwith 6, Denning 6, Leslie 16, Wall 11, Wells 6, Chavis 10.
Taft: Phelps 13, Drew 13, Carter 11, Smith 7, Hawkins 8.
Ravenscroft 67, Knightdale 64
The difference in the game was junior forward Ryan Kelly. Kelly battled his way in the paint to a game-high 33 points on 14-of-19 shooting to lead his past Knightdale, 67-64.
Coach Kevin Billerman stated it was a big win for his program, as is playing in this tournament.
"We're pleased with the win because we needed it under our belt," Ravenscroft coach Kevin Billerman said. "This was great for our team. It's not often that the city of Raleigh gets to see us. We're kind of sometimes forgotten; we don't get as much press as some of the public schools. Yet, I think we've had a stronger basketball program over the last eight years than anyone else in the city. We're like the lost child over there on the North side. Playing in this tournament gives a lot of people the opportunity to see us."
Joining Kelly in double figures was guard Dominic Walker, who added 15. Knightdale was led by Antonio Moffit's 20 points. Dennis Chineke and Montaz Coppedge chipped in 14 each, but it wasn't enough.
Ravenscroft will next play Durham Jordan at 2:20 in today's fifth place game.
KHS 11 18 17 17 — 67
RR 12 20 18 18 — 64
KHS: Chineke 14, Mealy 2, Moffit 20, Coppedge 14, Jackson 5, Noel 2, Manns 7.
RR: Parker 15, Stevenson 3, Kelly 33, Stoyanovich 2, Wilson 6, Story 8.
12:40 p.m.: Game 15 - Southern Durham vs. Knightdale (7th/8th Place 8-Team Boys) 2:20 p.m.: Game 16 - Ravenscroft vs. Durham Jordan (5th/6th Place 8-Team Boys)
5:40 p.m.: Panther Creek vs. Northern Durham (4-Team Boys Championship)
7:20 p.m.: Taft vs. Kinston (3rd/4th Place 8-Team Boys)
9:00 p.m.: Word of God vs. DeMatha (8-Team Boys Championship)
Bryan Hanks contributed to this report.