2021 Bennie Pollock Memorial

Jags 'certify place in Harnett County', claim 8th straight tipoff title

Sports editor
Posted 11/25/21

Wednesday marked a continuation of the longest championship streak for Harnett County's oldest basketball tournament.

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2021 Bennie Pollock Memorial

Jags 'certify place in Harnett County', claim 8th straight tipoff title


ANGIER — For Ayden Gittens and the rest of Overhills' senior-heavy boys basketball team, lining up to claim the first-place trophy following Harnett's most storied hoops tournament is nothing new. 

But as the seven-time champ Jags waited to hear their name for an eighth straight time after defeating host Harnett Central, 65-26, during Wednesday's final of the Bennie Pollock Memorial Tournament, the collective mood was far from unappreciative. 

"Last year, we didn't get to play as many games. A lot of people didn't get to see us ... so this year, it was really a statement for us to come back and certify our place in Harnett County– let them know that we're still one of the top schools," Gittens said following a 17-point performance that earned him tournament MVP honors. 

Gittens and fellow Jags veteran Damien Robinson (14 points) have been a part of previous tipoff-winning squads in the past.

But Overhills (2-0) newcomer Jamori McDougald was playing in his first title game, but showed no signs of nervousness as he poured in eight first-quarter points with the home crowd jeering in his ear during every dribble and shot. McDougald knocked a pair of 3's in the opening frame, including a triple that put the visitors up 17-9. 

First-year coach Michael Stephens spoke highly of the lightning-quick floor general, who provides just the right pace and intelligence to run his up-tempo offense. 

"It's a completely different team when he's out there. He brings them up to another level," Stephens said. 

"When he's on the court, they are deadly because, at any given time, you've got three shooters that can knock down the 3. Then you've got Damien and Ayden that can work inside." 

The second quarter was a testament to Stephens' assessment as McDougald opened the second period with back-to-back field goals, giving Overhills a 24-9 advantage. 

Moments later, Robinson punctuated a 15-0 run to begin the period by banking home a short shot around the rim. A Gittens triple near the end of the frame gave the team a 41-10 halftime lead. 

"I think this team really has a lot of unselfish players. Just guys that want to see their teammates win," Gittens said. 

"The way we move the ball this year is just different. Nobody wants to feel like they have to carry too much of a load." 

Following a 99-point outburst in the opener Monday, Stephens says he enjoyed the ball movement during the title game despite his group missing shots they normally make.

But it was the defensive effort seen during the tournament that he wants them to continue to perfect as they chase down a league title this year. 

"We've got the offense. If they can figure the defensive part out consistently every night, I really think we have a good shot," he said. 

Meanwhile, Central (1-1) coach Will Gage wasn't content with his group's effort on the heels of a dominating win over Western Tuesday. 

"I told them, 'As good as you felt last night, that's as bad as you feel tonight.

So you ought to know what happens when you do the things that we're good at and what happens when we don't do them,'" Gage said. 

Quez Jones, who joined Gittens and McDougald on the all-tournament team, tied for the team lead with six points in the loss. 

Up next, Overhills hosts Cape Fear on Monday, Nov. 29 for its home opener and Central hits the road for a non-conference tilt with Seaforth. 

Donnell Coley can be reached at dcoley@mydailyrecord.com or 910 230-2040. 


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