Saturday's 3-A Eastern Regional championship was a rematch of the Triad Conference Tournament for Dudley and conference foe Northeast Guilford. The two teams met twice during the regular season and again for the conference title. Dudley won all three leading up to the regional final, thanks to solid outings from Graves. In an earlier regular season matchup, Graves scored 42 points to lead the Panthers. He scored 24 and 25 points in the other two games.
On Saturday, he got help from his teammates. Senior guard Rashawn Polk matched Graves' 23 points and pulled down eight rebounds in the 81-58 win for the Panthers. Junior center Kenny Belton notched a double double with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Dudley dominated the boards, outrebounding Northeast, 51-42. Dudley profited off many of its 25 offensive boards. Graves had four offensive rebounds, while Polk had six and Belton grabbed eight.
Dudley also enjoyed more shooting success than Northeast did. The Rams (24-7) shot 32.2 percent from the field and 9-of-35 in the second half. The Panthers cruised, hitting 40.8 percent. Graves, who was named to the regional tournament team, went 8-of-22 from the field and one of five from three-point range. He also netted six of seven foul shots en route to scoring 23 points.
Graves and his teammates are excited, but focused about next week's state championship game against 3-A Western Regional champion Concord.
"It's just another game to me," Graves said. "It's a big game, but I've been playing basketball for so long and been there before. Last year, after we won, until I got my ring, I didn't realize what an accomplishment it was."