RALEIGH – On consecutive possessions during the fourth quarter Saturday, Rocky Mount Prep forward Deshawn Freeman showed what could have been.
First, Freeman took a pass from teammate Jacob Barrett on the baseline, and in the greatest amount of space he saw all afternoon, stretched his arms and powered home a dunk that made Jaguars’ supporters cheer their loudest.
The next possession was more of the same. After a turnover by Winston-Salem Prep, Freeman ran the wing on a fastbreak and slammed home an alley-oop, his head soaring above the rim.
Rocky Mount Prep’s best all-around player had highlights Saturday but not enough of them in the team’s 53-41 loss to Winston-Salem Prep in the NCHSAA 1-A state championship in Raleigh’s Reynolds Coliseum.
It wasn’t that Freeman wasn’t able to provide the necessary scoring punch the Jaguars needed, but Winston-Salem Prep’s defense did not give him the chance.
Freeman finished with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting, but with that type of efficiency, a good day could have been a great day.
“When that (second) dunk happened I said, ‘Just give me the ball. I can do this all night,” Freeman said.
Unfortunately for the Jaguars, it was easier said than done. Freeman was bottled up by an athletic Winston-Salem Prep defense that knew the 6-foot-7 center was the ignition of the Jaguars’ offense.
“He was an all-around player, and he was their guy,” Winston-Salem Prep point guard Raekwon Harney said. “He’s not an average big man. He’s just in the position of 5 on their team. He can play any position on the floor.”
Rocky Mount Prep shot only 28 percent (15-of-53) from the floor, highlighting the Jaguars necessity to find a player who could score.
Teammate Donte Samuels, another of the Jaguars’ post players, was held to seven points on 3-of-7 shooting. Two of Samuels’ baskets came outside of the paint where the team was outscored, 26-22.
Samuels said the Jaguars attempted to feed Freeman the ball, but those passes often were not in the most opportune spots on the floor.
“We tried all year to emphasize getting the ball inside to Donte and Deshawn. Touch it and get it back out,” Rocky Mount Prep coach Don Reams said. “But I also felt like we had to try to hit some 3s. As I said earlier, 0-for-17 (from 3-point range), that’s a big nail in our coffin. Hats off to them, they played great defense.”
Freeman played all but a few seconds of the contest when he left the floor to have his left hand wrapped after suffering a cut late in the fourth quarter.
The pain stung more a few minutes later when he sat with his teammates and watched Winston-Salem Prep accept the state title trophy.
Freeman, who transferred to Rocky Mount Prep after spending two years at Northern Nash, wanted to help his team complete the program’s goal of a state title.
Therein lied, the ‘What if?’ factor.
“I was thinking, ‘That could have been us,’” Freeman said.
Jessie H. Nunery can be reached at 407-9959 or firstname.lastname@example.org