USC commits flourish in playoffs
Smith, Gill square off for state title
LEWISVILLE, N.C. — To the victor goes the spoils.
So when Marshall Plumlee brought Eric Smith a bouquet of candy after winning the NCISAA 3-A state title over the weekend, he was literally able to enjoy the sweet taste of victory.
"It feels great to finally get a ring," the 6-foot Smith said. "I came to Christ School to get a championship, and to win big, that was just the icing on the cake."
The Greenies (37-1) defeated Charlotte Christian (29-4) 78-59 to win their fourth straight state title, but it didn't come without drama on the way there.
Smith, who hit his 100th 3-pointer of the season in the win, almost didn't have the opportunity to do so in the championship game, as it took a prayer in the semifinals from beyond NBA range to get the Greenies to the finals.
"I was able to show the coaches I can respond under pressure," Smith said of the shot that splashed through the net in front of South Carolina assistant Neill Berry.
In the championship game, Smith continued his excellent shooting from deep. The 2010 signee averaged just above 49 percent from 3 on the season and was 2-for-3 to pace his 13 points.
Smith is Christ School's leading scorer for one of the most balanced teams in the nation.
"It kind of gets me better for college where I won't have to do everything for the team, you know, just making me a better point guard," Smith said. "I can score sometimes or assist other times because some games I'm going to have to score more, and some games I'm going to have to assist and continue to do what's working."
Smith showed that as he had five points and five assists in the first half. In the second half he did a little bit more scoring with eight points and even grabbed two rebounds through the trees.
It was definitely a big man's game early as Charlotte Christian came out and immediately attacked the rim going up 10-2 within the first two minutes of the game with 2011 South Carolina commit Anothony Gill scoring nine of their first 14 points.
But a couple of quick blocks by the 7-foot Plumlee set the tone, and deterred Charlotte Christian from going back to the paint, despite Gill's early success.
"This was about what we wanted, we worked hard. It's just not first though," Gill said.
The 6-8 junior finished with 17 points, and most his points in the second half came from the free throw-line and junkyard like put-backs off his seven offensive rebounds.
"I'm just going to get in the weight room and get bigger (in the offseason)," said Gill who finished with eight boards.
Despite the outcome, both players had the opportunity to play in front the South Carolina coaches and are proven winners, so they got to show what they can do and what they can offer the program.
"I'm going to bring in a positive attitude and leadership. I've been playing on winning teams all my high school career," Smith said. "I've been talking to (the coaches) everyday about staying focused on just being a winner and focusing on winning a state championship."
Smith also was happy with what he saw from his future teammate as well.
"That's real competition on the court, I mean, he's real good," Smith said about Gill. "The first time we played him, he played real well, and he played real good tonight. And I'm looking forward to playing with him up in Columbia."
Both players were named all-state after the game.
"Being all-state means I worked for it all summer," Gill said. "I'm out here this year doing what I had to do, but it doesn't mean anything because I didn't win state."
Richardson's strong performance not enough
Brian Richardson did his part and carried the load, but his 27 points would not be enough as Greenfield School fell to United Faith 84-74 in the early game. The 2010 South Carolina signee didn't hit from deep like normal with his silky stroke but was 13-of-13 from the free-throw line. United Faith was unconscious early, shooting above 60 percent for most of the first half, but with Richardson's play, they were able to overcome a deficit that stayed around 20 for a good chunk of the second quarter.
"It feels good knowing that I can play in a level like this," the 6-5 wing said. "I'm confident in my shot and confident in all areas of my game."
Richardson scored seven of his team's first 13 points in a pace that was absolutely frenetic and high scoring. At halftime, Greenfield (26-11) was down just 52-40 with a late rally.
"It's a good feeling. We got to come here, and that was one of our goals," he said. "There's no disappointment. I think we played as hard as we could. That's all you can ask for."
Coach Berry was able to see Richardson to perform well against one of the top teams in the nation in United Faith (30-6), who even has a 6-8 big (Kadeem Green) coming off the bench that is signed on to play at Missouri next year.
"I think it just gets you prepared for the next level playing against bigger guys," Richardson said, "and it just makes you better being that it makes you work on areas of your game that you're weak on."
Richardson was also named to the all-state team, along with South Carolina signee Damontre Harris — whose team fell to Greenfield the day before.
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