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Zach Mayo

Zach Mayo

Zach Mayo is a reporter for HighSchoolOT.com and a student at UNC-Chapel Hill. You can follow Zach on Twitter @ZachMayoHSOT and he can be contacted at zmayo@wral.com.

Apex's season highlighted by shocks, close calls


Mar 14, 2014

Apex High School faces Millbrook High School in the Regional Finals. After a close game Apex finished strong and won the game 63 to 57. (Chris Baird / WRAL Contributor).

Apex High School faces Millbrook High School in the Regional Finals. After a close game Apex finished strong and won the game 63 to 57. (Chris Baird / WRAL Contributor).

With about five minutes to play in last week's 4-A eastern regional final against Millbrook, the Apex Cougar fans finally had a little room to breathe.

After being down most of the game, the Cougars managed to pull ahead by five points with the fourth-quarter clock winding down. A few minutes later, the Wildcats battled back to take the lead and Cougar fans found themselves where they have been through much of the season: On the edges of their seats.

The last two and a half minutes of the game got wilder than a game of Jumanji. Eventually, the fans who made the trip south to Fayetteville's Crown Coliseum were rewarded by seeing Apex's T.J. Evans and Ian Boyd knock down free throw after free throw to put the game away and head to the state championship game. And I wasn't surprised at all.

How could I be?

Back on Dec. 27, I stood near the baseline at Broughton High School and watched Apex, the same team that started the year 2-4, make multiple three-pointers near

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Eight 4-A East games to watch in the first day of playoffs


Feb 23, 2014

Julius Barnes (10) drives strong with the ball. SE Raleigh visits Garner on Wednesday, February. 19, 2014. SE Raleigh lead the first half but Garner came back to win with a last second 3 pointer to win the game 61 - 58. (Photo By: Beth Jewell)

Julius Barnes (10) drives strong with the ball. SE Raleigh visits Garner on Wednesday, February. 19, 2014. SE Raleigh lead the first half but Garner came back to win with a last second 3 pointer to win the game 61 - 58. (Photo By: Beth Jewell)

It’s the playoffs, folks.

Never mind the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s seven-hour process of posting preliminary brackets Saturday afternoon and weeding out the abundance of inaccuracies across the board. Never mind the fact that incredible inconvenient winter weather had teams all over the state hustling right up the very last minute of the regular season to squeeze everything in. Never mind that many conference tournaments were tossed out the window. It’s finally the playoffs.

And in the playoffs, nothing else matters. Forget the regular-season records. Forget the eight-game losing streak your team started its season on. Forget that your team frequently beats others by more than 50 points. It’s the playoffs. Nothing else matters.

Yet at the same time, everything matters more. The outcomes matter more. The loose balls and missed opportunities matter more. Even the snide and no-so-subtle bickering from subjective fans over the state of the game’s

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Trinity Christian representing an entire city in HSOT Invite finale


Dec 28, 2013

Alonzo Tyson goes up for a slam dunk. Trinity defeated the Homeschool Christian Youth Association 82-73 on the second day of the HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational in Raleigh, NC on December 27, 2013. Photo by: Jerome Carpenter

Alonzo Tyson goes up for a slam dunk. Trinity defeated the Homeschool Christian Youth Association 82-73 on the second day of the HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational in Raleigh, NC on December 27, 2013. Photo by: Jerome Carpenter

The HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational is in its 42nd year. In that time, the historic tournament has seen a wide array of winning teams. Some teams caught audiences by surprise while others were led by future stars of the NBA. None of the teams were from Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Prior to this year in the tournament's history, only two boys' basketball teams have ever come from Fayetteville to compete. Both teams played in the 90s, and neither won a game.

Fast-forward to this year's tournament, and not only have the Trinity Christian Crusaders won--they've won their first two games to advance to the championship game of the Summit Hospitality bracket.

The Crusaders don't have a future Tar Heel. They don't have a seven-footer, and despite winning a state championship in 2011 and making it to the title game again last season, Triangle-area audiences knew little about the identity of the team before the start of the week. With the field stacked the way it was,

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Wheeler a team to watch for in HSOT Invite's second day


Dec 27, 2013

Jaylen Brown (24) looking towards the hoop.  Wheeling Wildcats from Georgia beat North Carolina's Garner Trojans 86 to 60 on the first day of the HSOT holiday invitational tournament.  (Photo by: Suzie Wolf/WRAL contributor)

Jaylen Brown (24) looking towards the hoop. Wheeling Wildcats from Georgia beat North Carolina's Garner Trojans 86 to 60 on the first day of the HSOT holiday invitational tournament. (Photo by: Suzie Wolf/WRAL contributor)

As many out-of-state teams did Thursday, Wheeler started off slow against the Trojans. Shots were not falling for the Wildcats and they were unable to penetrate to the basket and use their big bodies to score down low. Garner led by three after the first quarter.

The remaining three periods went very differently for both parties involved. Wheeler quickly turned the game into an opportunity to add to its highlight dunk reel and Garner was simply unable to match the team athlete-for-athlete. The Wildcats broke the game open and it was very much over before the final buzzer sounded.

Are the Trojans a top-3 team in this year's tournament field? No, but they are consistently a power in the Triangle area and are known for their athleticism, which makes Wheeler's dominating win all the more impressive.

When looking at what exactly the Wildcats are bringing to the table when they take the court, I believe the team has as good a chance as any to be playing for all the marbles in the Shavlik Randolph bracket on Saturday night.

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Defense the unsung hero in Spartans' postseason run


Dec 9, 2013

Southern Durham's defender causes a fumble as Southern Durham defeats Wilson Hunt 38 to 10 in the 3AA regional finals of the 2013 NCHSAA football championship Friday December 6, 2013.(Photo by Jack Tarr)

Southern Durham's defender causes a fumble as Southern Durham defeats Wilson Hunt 38 to 10 in the 3AA regional finals of the 2013 NCHSAA football championship Friday December 6, 2013.(Photo by Jack Tarr)

When watching the Southern Durham Spartans on the football field this season, it has been easy to give all the attention to starting quarterback Kendall Hinton and his crew of dominant offensive teammates, including running back William Cameron and receivers Maurice Trowell and Derrick Mason.

There's nothing wrong with that. After all, they do tend to steal the show with all their fireworks. But as the members of the Southern air strike have scored all year long, the Spartan defense has greatly improved in the past few weeks and deserves a good amount of credit for advancing the team to its first N.C. High School Athletic Association state championship in school history.

On several occasions throughout the year, the Spartans have found themselves in shootouts where they have needed to put up big points on the scoreboard to keep pace with opponents and come out with wins. On Oct. 18, they gave up 54 points to a talented Northwood offense in a 58-54 win. A few weeks later,

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