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GW boys’ basketball keeps furious pace in thrashing of Pulaski in Region 4D Quarterfinals

Eighth-seeded Pulaski County played competitive basketball against top-seeded George Washington on Friday night. Well, at least in the opening minutes…

Members of George Washington’s boys’ basketball team celebrate their second consecutive Piedmont District Tournament title after their thrashing of Pulaski County in the quarterfinals of the Region 4D Tournament on Friday night in Danville. (Photo credit: Davin Wilson/RiverCitySports)

Eighth-seeded Pulaski County played competitive basketball against top-seeded George Washington on Friday night. Well, at least in the opening minutes.

Pulaski (9–19) played upstart basketball in the first four minutes of its Region 4D quarterfinal matchup against GW, taking the lead on two occasions, thanks to its fast-paced offense and aggressiveness in the paint.

In the end, the Eagles overcame their sluggish start, dominating the final three quarters in their 86–57 bruising of Pulaski on Friday night.

With the win, GW (23–1) advances to play №5 seed and former Western Valley District rival E.C. Glass on Tuesday night in the Region 4D semis. The Hilltoppers knocked off Liberty Christian 65–44 on Friday night.

AJ McCloud’s layup gave Pulaski a 4–2 lead at the 6:07 mark and Benjamin Poe’s layup with 2:25 remaining put the Cougars in front by three.

Poe’s basket, though, wakened a sleeping giant in GW.

The Eagles answered Poe’s basket with seven consecutive points on their way to a 16–10 advantage after the opening eight minutes.

Piedmont District Player of the Year Shunta Wilson got the run started when he finished his layup off a bounce pass from Piedmont Second-Team selection Ny’rek Wheeler. First-Team selection Kapone Barley kept the momentum going when he took a feed from Wilson and drained his 3-pointer that gave the Eagles a 14–10 edge. Seconds later, Barley capped off the run with a layup with 35 seconds left in the first.

“We got off to a slow start but we knew were going to get them though, so we kept our heads, stayed focused on the plan and got it done,” Barley said.

“It was win or go home,” Wilson added. “We all had to get into that mindset together. We had to work as a team, communicate as a team and do everything we can do to bring this thing home.”

After scoring seven straight points to close the first, Wilson brought the Eagles’ crowd to their feet when he picked up a steal and went coast-to-coast for a one-handed dunk. A pair of Pulaski free throws stopped the bleeding a bit, but Wilson and Wheeler took center stage.

Wilson rattled off four consecutive points on a tip-in and a layup that gave the Eagles a 12–2 lead, their biggest of the game up to that point.

GW has been fluid all season and it showed moments later when Carl Poole found Wheeler with a perfect bounce pass in stride and Wheeler finished his layup in the paint. It was just another moment this season where the Eagles seemed to be operating under an unspoken plan.

“Those are the types of passes [Carl] delivers every day in practice,” Wheeler said. “So, I knew where he was going with his pass, and I knew it was my job to find an open spot in the paint and finish off the layup.”

The Eagles’ cohesiveness shouldn’t be surprising, though, once looking at the roster. Ten players returned from last season’s squad that went 22–5 and made an appearance in GW’s fifth consecutive Region 4D Semifinal game. In addition, nine of those players were members of the 2016–17 JV team — also coached by current varsity coach Jermaine Parker — that ran the table in a perfect 22–0 season.

“We’re around each other every day so we know where the other is going to be at,” Barley said. “It’s second nature to us. We all know somebody will be there to catch the pass. Make a shot. Play D.”

As GW’s lead ballooned to double-digits midway through the second quarter, Parker and the Eagles switched over to a John Calipari and Kentucky platoon system, subbing players in at will and the reserves were ready for their chance to shine on the big stage.

In all, 10 players came off the bench to score for GW. Wesley Graves scored eight points with six of them coming on a pair of banked-in 3-pointers that resembled Tim Duncan, while Meco Wiggins chipped in with six.

“First man on the bench needs to be just as good as the last man on the bench,” Wheeler said. “We can go to our six, seven and eight guys and still get contributions from them and they’re really able to match the starters talent.”

Wilson’s game-high 24 points led the Eagles, while Barley knocked down four 3-pointers on his way to 16 points. Wheeler finished with eight.

Hayden Gray scored a team-high 12 points on four 3-pointers for Pulaski, while McCloud contributed 11.

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