The 6-3 Carolina-bound junior netted 33 points in Eastern Alamance's 78-45 win over Cedar Ridge Friday night, but more importantly than his take-charge mentality on the offensive end was that he recorded the type of balanced stat line that improves the team's play.
"He is the type of player that is capable of making everyone around him better," E.A. head coach John Moon said, "and when he makes everyone around him better, then everyone steps up."
And this was quite apparent in this game. Curry hit his first three three-pointers, en route to 11 first-quarter points, but had four turnovers and no assists. At the end of the quarter, the game was tied 13-13.
Though when the rest of the team got involved, the results were immediate. Eastern put together a 29-5 run spanning the second and third quarter, including 13 points from Curry, but it was his assists, rebounds, steals and two monster blocks which really fueled the run.
"Everybody knows about JamesOn, so it's no big surprise, but when the other guys step up they're a tough team to play," said Cedar Ridge head coach Jim Pappas. "You're going to have to take your medicine with JamesOn and hope the other four guys on your team do a better job against the four other guys – and that didn't happen."
After hitting four of his first five three-pointers, Curry missed seven in a row from beyond the arc, but got a heavy dose of offense from close range, connecting on all nine of his two-point attempts for the game, as he repeatedly burned defenders for driving layups.
"He made some tough shots – guy steps out 3-4 feet beyond the three point line … and hit some shots when we were playing some good defense," Pappas said. "When he starts to hit a few shots and gets a rhythm going – you've got to not allow him to get those juices flowing. If you let him get those easy ones, it's going to be a long night."
Which is what it quickly became for Cedar Ridge. Curry's final stat line read 33 points (14-22 fg, 5-13 3pt, 0-2 ft), 7 assists, 9 rebounds, six steals, two blocks and six turnovers. It was the 35th time in his high school career that he's scored at least 30 points.
This was a vital game for Eastern, with two losses this week putting the postseason in jeopardy. Moon and his staff got down to basics, eliminating pregame rituals to ensure that the team was all-business on Friday night.
"They know what's at stake – we took some things away from them," Moon said. "We took this hugging with the cheerleaders away from them – we took all this running around halfcourt away from them. I'm tired of it. Play basketball – that's what you're here for. I ain't running for mayor. I want them to play basketball, and when they're focused they're still not great, but when they give good effort we can be competitive. …
"It's tough [playing three games in a week], but every team's got to do it – we're all going through it so it's not like any team has an advantage. Once of the things we wrote on the board tonight was "Heart." Everybody's playing three games this week, but you've got to suck it up."
Eastern got the message loud and clear, as evidenced by the 33-point win, thanks to a strong defensive effort and solid offensive execution.
The focus of the team now turns to a much-anticipated matchup with Burlington Cummings on Monday night.
"This was [the type of game we needed] because we've got the 82nd Airborne coming in here Monday night – a big game with Cummings that the kids are looking forward to it. We couldn't have had a better game going into Monday night."
Cummings features senior guard Drew Williamson, who will walk on at UNC next fall. Williamson is Curry's cousin, and the two faced off for an epic battle a year ago, with Cummings winning as Williamson's 45 points bested Curry's 40 points. Last year's Mr. N.C. 2-A Basketball award winner? Williamson finished second to Curry – by a single vote.
Inside Carolina will be back in Mebane to provide coverage of the Eastern Alamance-Burlington game, so stay tuned Monday night …