On Monday, Phenom Hoops traveled out to the “Big Four” at Ben L. Smith High School, as Page and Dudley prepared to kick off their season with a neutral site contest. Given their talent, leadership, and coaching staff, the Pirates entered this contest with their highest expectations in recent memory. Meanwhile, Dudley quietly trended upward as one of the Triad’s more underrated teams throughout the months leading up to the season. Between the atmosphere, general excitement, and on-court product, this game had all the makings of an incredibly entertaining battle. Here’s how it ironed out…

The game kicked off with ten straight points from the Pirates, and looked like a potential blowout. However, Coach Prince called timeout to tweak their game plan, and the players took care of the rest. The Panthers hit a few key jumpers to chip away at the deficit, but still trailed 16-6 after the first quarter. Upon the start of the second period, the shift in momentum was becoming clearly evident. Page was largely able to maintain their scoring pace, but Dudley’s trio of guards were simply getting better and better—as they cut the deficit to 31-25 by halftime. Following the break, the Panthers became the clear aggressors. It quickly turned to a one-possession game, as Dudley secured their first lead of the night at 40-39 with three minutes left in the third quarter. They capped off a twenty-point quarter with a 45-41 advantage and looked more than prepared to enter the final period of play. It all goes back to the aforementioned guard trio for Dudley—who combined to score 31 of their 36 second-half points and ultimately closed out this contest with a 61-49 victory over Page High School.

Dudley:

6’1 ’24 Cam Flippen

Despite somewhat of a sluggish start, Flippen steadily emerged as the clear leader of this group. When his shot wasn’t falling early on, he immediately realized, altered his approach, and looked to create for others at every opportunity. Flippen is probably more of an off-guard, but more than comfortable at dictating the action as a floor general. That being said, most of his assists came through intelligent pitch-ahead passes in the open court and unselfish drop-offs around the basket. Whenever his backcourt mates (who each double as lethal shooters) were open, he made a clear point to get them the ball. Flippen also displayed the ability to create his own shot, apply scoring pressure from all levels, and stand out as a pest defensively (especially in a late matchup with the best opposing player). His youth and well-rounded identity should certainly put college coaches on notice. Final stats: 17 points, 7 assists, 4 steals, and 3 rebounds. 

5’10 ’22 Spencer Hairston

In many ways, Hairston was the Panthers’ most reliable all-around player from start to finish. Though his shot wasn’t falling at its normal percentage, he still found ways to score within the flow of the action. Hairston assumed some point guard responsibilities and effectively set up others for easy scoring chances. Though somewhat slight in frame, Hairston is tough and gritty—especially on defense. He soared for numerous key rebounds and powerful blocks, and then consistently made plays in transition. Hairston has the ability to play at the next level. Final stats: 10 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks, and 1 steal.

5’9 ’23 Denzel Foster

It would be extremely difficult to discuss the Panthers’ success without mentioning the major contributions from Foster. Not only was he the piece who kept them afloat when nothing was going right, but he maintained his consistency when the lights were at their brightest. Foster is somewhat undersized, but it simply didn’t matter. He’s an excellent shooting threat with patience, repeatable mechanics, and a quick release point. Foster moved very well without the ball and simply didn’t take bad shots. He also made his presence felt on the glass. Final stats: 19 points (5 threes) and 5 rebounds.

6’6 ’23 Tre McNeil

Similar to his teammate above, McNeil did whatever necessary to be an x-factor throughout the course of this game. He excelled within his two-way role, playing hard, altering shots, and rebounding nearly everything in sight. McNeil ran the floor well in transition, and highlighted some solid flashes of floor-spacing ability. He will be one to watch progress over the next few years. Final stats: 5 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 1 assist.

Other Noteworthy Contributors:

6’1 ’23 Jaden Ingram- 8 points

Page:

6’5 ’22 Josh Scovens

Aside from the final result, it’s very challenging to say anything other than positives about Scovens’ performance. He still shined as a leader and was clearly best player on the floor, as evidenced by his versatile, advanced all-around identity. During the opening minutes, Scovens looked poised to go for a career-high in scoring. He was calmly and efficiently getting whatever he wanted offensively, and mixing it up enough to naturally cause matchup problems. After everything we’ve seen over the last twelve months, there should be no real confusion about Scovens’ positional flexibility—and this showing only further solidified that notion. He’s equally as clam at operating on the block or from the wing, and possesses the necessary array of skills to dominate from either area. Scovens continues to make strides as a creator and shot-maker (even if he missed a few jumpers that were halfway down), and can actively alter his approach as needed. Kudos to Army for extending an offer early, because Scovens will warrant more scholarships over the coming months. Final stats: 19 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks.

6’2 ’25 Jerron Blackwell

Although the raw numbers might not reflect it, Blackwell was easily one of the top players in the building. His blend of IQ, size, and polish make him better than a vast majority of prospects within North Carolina—regardless of class. Blackwell is almost too passive with his desire to manage the game on both ends of the floor. He can touch the paint at will, create for himself or others, and basically get any shot he wants. However, Blackwell is very unselfish and never looks to force the issue. He’s reliable in all facets of the game, from scoring to defending to playmaking, and will only get better as the season progresses. Blackwell has all the makings of a high-level guard, especially for his age. Final stats: 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals.

Other Noteworthy Contributors:

6’3 ’22 Tyler McIntyre- 4 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block, and 1 steal

6’3 ’23 Zack Goodman- 5 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block