Sunday, February 5, 2023

Braves Basketball Showcases Their Talent at Moonlight Madness

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Deon Berrien warming up for the mens scrimmage during Moonlight Madness. PN Photo/Andrew Thrift

By: Ja’Quel WIlliams

The Braves men’s and women’s basketball team participated in Moonlight Madness, a homecoming pep rally and preview of the 2021-22 basketball season.

The Hot Shot 3-point contest was the first event in Moonlight Madness in which two teams, led by James Bullard and Abigayle Spencer, went head-to-head. Bullard’s team included Tyrell Kirk and Alcenia Purnell, while Deon Berrien and Kelci Adams were on Spencer’s team.

It was a close competition with Kirk and Adams going first for their respective teams and tying with five made shots each. Berrien and Purnell went second for their respective teams, with Berrien outsourcing Purnell three to two, giving Abigayle Spencer the lead eight to seven.

The last to go for their teams were the leaders, Bullard and Spencer. Spencer was victorious and earned the right to shoot for free tuition. When asked about her mindset during the contest, Spencer, a freshman on the UNCP volleyball team, explained how excitedly nervous she felt.

“While I was on the court though I was a little nervous because you know, if you win you get free tuition, but no pressure,” Spencer said.

Spencer had no shortage of support on her side from fellow teammates and other students.

“Once they announced my name my whole team stood up and cheered for me to go down and do it,” Spencer said. “I had a lot of fun and it made it even better that I could hear everyone, especially my teammates, screaming for me when I made a shot,” Unfortunately she did not make the required number of shots to win, but she was still awarded a free shirt.

After the Hot Shot 3-point contest, and performances by the Spirit Squad’s dance and cheer teams, The men’s basketball team took the court for their black vs. white scrimmage.

Their high flying ability was obvious as multiple players threw in slam dunks during the pregame layup line. The scrimmage was very flashy and physical, and gave the audience a preview of what to see in the upcoming season.

Drew Richards, coach of the men’s basketball team, said that the team plays hard, plays physically, and plays with 100% effort consistently.

“Time will tell what we’re gonna be known for, but year end and year out, the boys pride themselves on rebounding the basketball and guarding at a high level,” Richards said. “I don’t think this group will be much different.”

Men’s basketball will open their season up on the road as they take on the Newberry Wolves on Nov 12.

After the men’s scrimmage, the women got their turn to showcase their ability on the court in their black vs gold scrimmage.

The team’s shot-making ability was front and center as the ball was going inside the net from every spot on the floor, from inside the paint to beyond the arc. After a disappointing final season in the Peach Belt Conference, the scrimmage was a taste of what the Braves bring to the table as they enter their first season as part of the Conference Carolinas.

Kelci Adams, a sophomore on the Braves, feels like the move can help the team bounce back from their Peach Belt struggles.

“It’s exciting because it feels like we get a fresh start,” Adams said. “We struggled in the Peach Belt so joining this new conference lets the team have a brand new start.”

John Haskins, coach of the women’s basketball team, said the Braves possess several experienced players that can give them the upper hand coming into this new season.

“Our seniors returned using their covid year this year so we have the same team from last year,” Adams said. “We have an old team as well so with that comes experience that some teams lack.”

The last event of the night was the high flying showcase known as the dunk contest. In the competition, Tyre Boykin, Ray Faison, Kenneth Hodges, and Nygell Verdier competed for the best dunker. The judges in this competition were Lamar Courmon, Anthony Carter, Tiara Williams, and Mickey Locklear.

The competition started strong, with Faison converting a two-hand slam off of a self-lob. He garnered 31 points out of 40.

The first player eliminated from the contest was Verdier, as he could not complete his self-lob double clutch reverse dunk attempt.

The only 40 point dunk of the night occurred in the second round when Boykin slammed in a windmill dunk after catching a bounce alley-oop from teammate Cortez Marion-Holmes, who threw the alley-oop from the audience.

Boykin and Faison advanced to the final round and went head to head in a dunk-off. First, Faison threw in a left-handed dunk after taking off from a step inside the free throw line. Faison’s dunk earned him a 39 from the judges, and a victory after Boykin couldn’t convert his between-the legs dunk attempt.

The Braves will be in action on Nov. 3 as they head to Raleigh to take on the NC State Wolfpack in an exhibition match.

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