Graves, Dudley One Win From Title Game

GREENVILLE, N.C. – William Graves helped his Dudley boys basketball team shake a poor start and defeat Hertford County, 101-83, during Thursday's 3-A Eastern Regional semifinals.

Dudley advances to Saturday's 3-A Eastern Regional championship. The Panthers will play conference foe Northeast Guilford at 5 p.m. in East Carolina's Minges Coliseum. The two teams have faced off three times this season – most recently in the conference tournament – and Dudley has won them all.

On Thursday, Graves, a 6-foot-6 senior guard and North Carolina signee, scored 24 of his 27 points in the last three quarters of play. He recorded nine of them during the second quarter when Dudley outscored Hertford County by 20 points and rebounded from a 10-point first-quarter deficit.

The Panthers took the lead during that second quarter run when Dudley senior forward Robert Johnson fed Graves under the basket. Graves completed the play with a turnaround two-handed slam dunk that gave the Panthers a one-point advantage.

"(Hertford County) just came out focused," Graves said. "They were ready to play. We took their best shot, regrouped and came back out."

The Panthers outscored Hertford County for the remainder of the game, en route to breaking the 100-point margin for the eighth time this season. The Panthers, which dropped 31 points in the third quarter to Hertford County's 11, also out-rebounded the Bears 51-32. At 6-foot- 6, Johnson finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds to help the Panthers close out the game.

In addition to his 27 points, Graves pulled down five rebounds and one assist. Four of Graves' rebounds were putbacks that the senior capitalized on.

Hertford County coach Charles Simmons said he thought Graves was a mismatch for his team, whose tallest player is 6-foot-3 junior center Tydreke Powell. Hertford guard Antonio Branch defended Graves, but the 6-foot-2 guard weighed at least 70 pounds less. Simmons added that Graves' outside and inside capabilities made him tough to contain.

"He's a phenomenal player," Simmons said.

Graves, like usual, shrugged off any mention of his game-high 27 points.

"It's really just a team effort," Graves said. "It just so happened it was in my hands to hit those shots."

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