On Tuesday evening, a pair of Guilford County’s most noteworthy basketball programs collided at Northwest Guilford to see the hometown Vikings open their season against the undefeated Wildcats of Eastern Guilford (3-0). The football players have recently joined both squads, which provided an interesting subplot for Eastern, as many of their top contributors come from the gridiron. There’s an influx of talent on both teams, but Coach Spinks (Eastern) and Coach Reavis (Northwest) each deserve a lot of credit for their intelligence and sheer creativity over the years.
This contest was played at a pretty slow pace on both sides, as Northwest worked to get the ball inside while Eastern focused on initiating their sets (multiple times on some possessions) and trying to find seams within the defense. The opening quarter combined for the most points, as they traded buckets for the first few minutes and then the Vikings solidified their lead, 19-16, heading into the second period. Northwest did a great job of staggering minutes throughout this quarter, featuring Hampton and Reiber separately for most of the period, allowing them to expand their lead to 33-24 heading into halftime. The second half was sloppy but competitive, ultimately allowing Northwest to maintain their comfortable lead throughout the half. Transition play was rare, even though the Wildcats forced twice as many turnovers as the Vikings (13 versus 6). The interior play of Northwest was simply too overwhelming for Eastern to cope with, as the Vikings opened their season with a 63-54 victory over the Wildcats.
6’3 ’20 Omarion Johnson
There wasn’t a more consistent Wildcat performer than Johnson, who was able to apply constant scoring pressure from below the free-throw line—despite giving up a lot of size to his matchup. He utilizes his length so well on rebounds and finishes, which is a big part of what allows him to actually contribute from inside the paint. Johnson is an impactful defender that can toggle between guarding the perimeter and protecting the rim. One could argue that the wiry wing/forward has now emerged as their glue-guy over the recent months. Final stats: 15 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 1 steal.
6’2 ’19 Justin Matthews
In his first game back from football, Matthews showed the ability to run a team and set the table for others on a consistent basis. He knocked down a three-pointer in the opening quarter, but really focused on setting up his teammates throughout this showing. Matthews was also tasked with defending the best opposing perimeter player for extended stretches and maintained solid sturdiness and positioning in doing so. Final stats: 3 points, 9 assists, and 1 steal.
6’2 ’19 Nic Cheely
Like Matthews, Cheely returned from the football field and immediately made his presence felt on both ends of the floor. He’s typically the player that fills the “glue-guy” mold, but his scoring was severely needed for the Wildcats to stay afloat. Cheely was able to effectively score from all levels, but mostly looked to get downhill and finish strong around the basket. He still does a little bit of everything for this team, from ball-handling to defending, and brings a reliable skillset to both sides of the ball. Final stats: 12 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists.
5’7 ’21 Kadyn Dawkins
There have been high expectations set for Dawkins over the last year or so, as he’s begun to take the next steps in his mental and physical development. He’s the youngest contributor on this roster and showed the ability to operate within various different roles on a team, going from the lead creator during the first three games, to sliding off-ball and applying pressure as a three-point shooter in this showing. Right now, Dawkins simply refuses to take low-quality shots, but this team desperately needs him to let it fly from distance, even if he ends up surrendering a few bad attempts. He came alive in the second half, totaling 16 of his 18 points. The guard possesses so much talent, but must continue to be aggressive in order to maximize his role. Final stats: 18 points (four three-pointers), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal.
6’2 ’20 Christian Hampton
There’s so much to like about Hampton, but this showing might’ve actually vaulted him into Mid-Major consideration. He did his normal thing: hounding opponents on defense, seeing the entire floor, making passes, and aggressively attacking the rim. However, his three-point shooting was simply on another level, arguably marking his most consistent/efficient contest from beyond the arc. The lefty plays with aggression, but can still be more decisive and deliberate with the ball in his hands. Hampton is still one of the top true two-way players in Greensboro and showed flashes of brilliance on Tuesday. Final stats: 19 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, and 1 steal.
6’9 ’20 Dean Reiber
The most tantalizing prospect from either team was clearly Reiber, who was able to nonchalantly dominate this game. His combination of size, skill, athleticism, and three-level scoring is simply unfair for most opponents. Reiber has always showed signs of a smooth face-up game, but his poise and footwork in the low-post have really improved, allowing him to pick and choose how he wants to attack. He knocked down a three-pointer to open the game, but then scored a majority of his points on the block and from offensive rebounds. The most positive sign about this game was Reiber’s ability to protect the rim at an impactful level, playing with increased toughness and swatting away anything in his region. He’s an obvious Mid-Major prospect with an abundance of offers, but there are plenty of High-Major programs that should consider the big man a priority. Final stats: 18 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks.
6’2 ’20 Brandon Thomas
The combo-guard provided a lot of quality minutes during this contest, given his ability to actively toggle between playing with and without the ball in his hands. He’s wiry and utilizes his length pretty well when handling the ball. Thomas is a solid decision-maker that can knock down shots and defend his position. Final stats: 7 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block.
5’11 ’19 Johnny Pagano
The guard prospect provides the Vikings with a strong two-way presence, given his perimeter shooting and defensive scrappiness. Pagano has a solid feel for the game and his overall role within this team, which should allow him to contribute on a nightly basis going forward. Final stats: 6 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.
6’0 ’20 Robbie Boulton
The Vikings’ starting point guard was really solid throughout this contest, maintaining a steady, reliable approach and managing the team nicely. Boulton is a poised decision-maker with quality vision and the ability to knock down jumpers or finish around the basket. Final stats: 4 points, 5 assists, 1 block, and 1 steal.