BEAUFORT — The West Carteret boys basketball team suffered a humbling 100-64 loss to Havelock late last season. The Patriots appeared headed for a similar defeat Friday, facing a 21-point deficit in the third quarter.
J.J. Williams made sure that didn’t happen again.
The junior point guard poured in a career-high 35 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter to bring his team back in a 75-70 double-overtime road victory.
“I’m glad we got back in it,” Williams said. “I wouldn’t be OK with myself if we lost to them by 30 or more again.”
West trailed by 21 in the third quarter when it went on a 28-7 run through the fourth quarter. Williams scored his 12 points in the fourth quarter on four three-pointers.
“They played a zone, and it was wide with a lot of gaps, so we were able to move the ball and find the open man,” Williams said. “And we hit a lot of threes in the second half, and that helped us out a lot.”
He went 8-of-13 from the three-point line, shot 4-of-7 from inside the arc and went 3-of-4 from the free-throw line to score his 35 points on just 20 field goal attempts. He also added four rebounds, six assists and three steals and played all but one minute in the matchup.
The Patriots entered the fourth quarter trailing by 16 points, and while the perimeter shooting was the sizzle of the comeback, their defense was the steak.
“I thought we played great defense in the fourth quarter,” Williams said. “We made them turn it over a lot. We changed defenses the entire game, going from man to a half-court trap. They both worked for us.”
Williams said he knew it was going to be a big night before the game.
“I was with my mom – we always go to Sports Center before games to get some shots up – and that day I was feeling really good,” he said. “I told her I was feeling really good and that I was going to score 30. I was hitting everything.”
In addition to winning a crucial conference game, the contest had a number of interesting subplots.
Havelock swept the Patriots last season, winning 77-74 in the first matchup before taking the rematch by 36.
“We definitely had to get them back,” Williams said. “That first one last year was close at our place, but they killed us at their place. I wasn’t nervous, but I was like OK, I can’t let this happen again when they were up 20. This wasn’t just my best game, but it was my favorite game, to beat Havelock by coming back from a 20-point deficit.”
Christian Frazier and Shakur Frazier transferred from West to Havelock in the offseason. Christian Frazier had 20 points on Friday, while Shakur Frazier had 14.
“Since they transferred, everybody at school has said we had to beat Havelock,” Williams said. “There was a lot of junk talking going on. I didn’t really talk a lot, but there were some guys out there definitely talking.”
West moved to 14-3 overall and 3-1 in the 3A Coastal with the win. A loss would have given the team back-to-back league losses after a 56-54 defeat to White Oak three days earlier. Williams had just five points in that contest after the Vikings focused a box-and-one defense on him.
“It was pretty frustrating because they had that defense on me and I didn’t get a lot of shots off,” Williams said. “They played really well.”
Facing gimmicky defenses is nothing new for the West point guard. He had to deal with it often last year when he averaged 19.0 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.6 steals in his first varsity season.
“Once we got into conference play, I was the focus,” he said. “Teams shut me down, and I had never had that happen before. It was a lot different from what I was used to, and it was a learning experience. It helped prepare me for this season.”
Williams said he watched plenty of last year’s film this offseason to help him prepare for dealing with so much defensive attention.
“It’s about denying me the ball, so I would give the ball up and I wouldn’t get it back,” he said. “I learned you’ve got to move without the ball and get open to get it back.”
Back-to-back losses might have also been too big a mental blow for the Patriots to overcome after their struggles last season. After starting 10-0, they went 3-8 down the stretch to finish fifth in the six-team league with a 3-7 mark and miss the playoffs.
“I didn’t want to happen what happened last year when we lost a few games and went on a losing streak,” Williams said. “We’ve been talking about that since the summer. We had really high expectations coming into this year, and we can’t let what happened last year happen this year. It was really frustrating. I don’t want to go through that again. None of us on the team does.”
Williams is averaging similar stats as last year, and with a 3.47 GPA, his numbers should present an impressive résumé for college recruiters. He’s already received interest from East Carolina, Campbell and Western Carolina, among others.
Here are a few of Williams’ favorite things, as well as his ideal groups with which to eat dinner and survive a zombie apocalypse and the five items he would take with him on a deserted island:
Favorite Movie: “Teen Beach Movie.”
Favorite TV Show: “Proud Family/Kim Possible.”
Favorite Cartoon: “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
Favorite Band/Artist: Drake.
Favorite Song: “We’ll Be Fine” by Drake.
Favorite Book: The Bible.
Favorite Team: Cleveland Cavaliers.
Favorite Athlete: LeBron James.
Favorite Vacation: Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Favorite Hobby: “Playing video games.’
Favorite Subject: P.E.
Favorite Quote: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” – Colossians 3:23.
Favorite Food: Shrimp.
Favorite Drink: Grape Sunkist.
Favorite Restaurant: Snapperz Grill & Steam Bar.
Favorite Season: Summer.
Favorite Sports Memory: “Playing in the Youth Nike Basketball League.”
Favorite Teacher: Mr. Brian Roberts and Mr. Daniel Barrow.
Favorite Sport: Basketball.
Favorite Pre-Game/Post-Game Ritual: “Reading my Bible, praying.”
Favorite Website/App: Instagram.
Favorite Follow On Twitter/Instagram: Elvis Sandoval.
Ideal Dinner Guest List: Jesus, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Junah Gooch and Fat Albert.
Ideal Group To Survive A Zombie Apocalypse: Jake “The Snake” Mizell, Joseph Whitehurst, Elvis Sandoval, Junah Gooch, Richard Bandy and Brian Roberts.
Items For A Deserted Island: House (with electricity), boat, phone, video games and a big TV.