On Thursday, Phenom Hoops traveled out to Northern Guilford in Greensboro, North Carolina, as the Nighthawks prepared to host the Wolverines of Westover High School in a second-round matchup in the NCHSAA 3A playoffs. Last year (prior to everything shutting down), Westover actually made it to the title game and were forced to be named co-champions. They lost numerous seniors, including Traymond Willis-Shaw, but still seemed likely to be a favorite come playoff time due to the greatness of D’Marco Dunn. On the other side, Northern Guilford is possibly in the midst of their best season in school history. There was no shortage of excitement surrounding this contest, and both squads certainly delivered…

Things kicked off in a fast-paced, back-and-forth manner with Westover using their length and athleticism to overwhelm the opposition and push transition play. Their 1-3-1 zone press caused a ton of problems early, and allowed the Wolverines to finish the first quarter with a 20-16 lead. In the second period, we were provided with even more intensity and lead changes. In the closing minutes, Northern secured a 30-26 lead entering halftime. Following the break, the Nighthawks just seemed to get better and better. Neither team had much depth, as both teams really only played six guys, but Northern found a weakness and began attacking it. They held a 45-38 advantage entering the final quarter of play. In the last eight minutes, the Nighthawks extended their lead by arguably playing their best basketball of the game—securing a 67-54 victory over Westover. 

Northern Guilford:

6’4 ’21 Adonijah Whitley

It’s really difficult to refer to anyone other than Whitley as the “most valuable player” from this contest. Defensively, he was spectacular against an elite opponent. His assignment isn’t the type of guy who is going to be completely shut down and score zero points, but rather someone who will dominate and take over a game if he gets going. Whitley didn’t need to hold him scoreless, just bottle him up enough to force others to step up instead. That’s exactly what he did, being an absolute pest at all times. Whitley was attached at the hip as an off-ball defender, constantly denying and mirroring his man, and stayed disciplined off the bounce. He took away clean looks, made every second difficult, and was simply incredible on defense from start to finish. Additionally, Whitley offered his usual, natural glue-guy presence on offense while making his presence felt on the glass. This was a remarkable showing from Whitley, and should lead to opportunities at the next level. Final stats: 14 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals. 

6’6 ’22 Nolan Hodge

Though the smooth offensive machine didn’t enjoy his usual amount of efficiency, Hodge still shined as one of the top players in the gym. When his shot wasn’t falling early, he was quick to alter his approach, get others involved, and affect all facets of the game. Hodge displayed major emphasis on the glass, leading all rebounders, and made a variety of plays defensively. His IQ, patience, and overall understanding of how to assert himself gives him offensive appeal at the next level. This team went undefeated with Hodge as their leader, which is just one of the many reasons why all types of Division I schools should be monitoring. He has an odds-on chance to unlock his full potential and subsequently become a special player in the process. Final stats: 16 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 blocks. 

6’2 ’22 Manny Elliott

Given the closeness of the game early-on, Elliott was a major x-factor and made a huge difference in this contest. He provided a major scoring punch when the Nighthawks were struggling to find offensive opportunities. Elliott simply knows how to get buckets. He can spot-up, attack the basket, create looks off the bounce, or access about a dozen other scoring methods. Elliott is tough, fearless, and can fill it up from all three levels (or transition) in a hurry. He’s quick, heady, and should also have numerous opportunities at the next level. Final stats: 19 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal.

6’0 ’22 Jackson Helms and 6’0 ’21 Owen Griffith

Although they might appear somewhat unassuming at first glance, the duo of Helms and Griffith are so incredibly valuable to the overall structure and approach of this group. Both guys really excel at being high-motor pests with toughness and quickness. Defensively, they each understand how to mirror opposing ball-handlers, anticipate passes into steals, and make quality decisions with the ball on offense. Both guys genuinely embrace the team-first concept, consistently do the dirty work for this group, and should warrant attention from college coaches. Helms: 11 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 5 steals. Griffith: 5 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 block, and 3 steals.

Westover:

6’5 ’21 D’Marco Dunn (UNC signee)

It would be difficult to make many new comments about Dunn and his incredibly smooth, effortless game. Even in a losing effort, he was very efficient, refused to force bad shots, and still did a variety of high-level things as the clear leader. Dunn can access basically any shot he desires with relative ease, where he’s proven to convert at a high percentage. However, he showed a willingness to defer and set up others when multiple defenders were thrown his way. Between his IQ, size, and extremely impressive offensive arsenal, one would be wise to bet on Dunn succeeding at the next level and beyond. Final stats: 16 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, and 3 steals.

6’4 ’22 Mikey Campbell

While Dunn still lead the way and dictated the action for Westover, Campbell emerged as a productive running mate. He’s a long, fluid forward prospect with a nice frame, athleticism, and some versatility on either end of the floor. Campbell handles the ball well for his size, attacks the basket effectively, and displays strength inside the paint. He’s great at positioning himself for rebounds and locating the ball inside or outside of his area. Campbell is an intriguing prospect and definitely capable of playing at the next level. Final stats: 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 1 assist.