Jalek Felton had some extra motivation coming into Monday’s matchup against A.C. Flora.
In addition to playing against one of the state’s top teams, Felton was disappointed he didn’t hear his name called Sunday when the McDonald’s All-American game rosters were announced. The Gray Collegiate standout took out his frustration on the Falcons by scoring 41 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the 73-58 victory in the marquee matchup at the Crescent Construction MLK Bash at Eau Claire High.
“Things happen for a reason, but I just used it to fuel me coming into this game right here,” Felton said of the McDonald’s snub. “My family was always behind and pushed, and told me good things are going to happen.”
Gray Collegiate coach Dion Bethea sat down with Felton, who is ranked as the No. 1 combo guard in the country by 247Sports, before the game and told him not to let the all-star snub bother him. He also knew the War Eagles were going to need a big effort from Felton, who scored 42 points in the first game against A.C. Flora on Dec. 22.
“He’s got a bright future ahead of him. The kid is a leader and great player,” Bethea said. “For us, we needed to push him against a really good A.C. Flora team. He showed up and he performed.”
Felton did the bulk of his damage in the second half with 31 of his 41 coming after halftime as he battled back and forth with A.C. Flora guard James Reese, who scored 31 points.
Reese, who had 21 in the second half, and Christian Brown helped Flora rally from a 29-24 halftime deficit to take a 44-41 lead following an 8-2 run with 7:56 left.
Brown finished with 14 points, including a coast-to-coast slam dunk to bring the fans to their feet.
But after Juwan Gary’s layup got Gray within one, Felton hit two 3-pointers as the War Eagles took control. The North Carolina signee also went 13 of 13 from the free-throw line in the second half.
“My coaches told me down the stretch to be clutch and make big shots, and that big time players make big time plays,” Felton said. “And I just took on the role and made it happen.”
Gary added 17 points and seven boards for Gray Collegiate, which has won four in a row.
The loss was A.C. Flora’s second straight, but coach Joshua Staley left encouraged by his team’s performance and thinks they can build on it as they get back into region play and try to make it to their fourth consecutive title game.
“All I wanted to see tonight was great energy, and we saw great energy all game long,” Staley said. “We are trying to turn our season around, and the first step to turning it around is having good energy. The guys were playing hard for each other, but they just made a few more shots than us.”
Both teams go back into region play Tuesday, with A.C. Flora playing Orangeburg-Wilkinson and Gray taking on Eau Claire at Allen University.
GCA: Bruner 4, K. Robinson 5, Jalek Felton 41, Juwan Gary 17, Shields 3, Cooke 3. ACF: James Reese 31, Christian Brown 14, Hollingsworth 4, D. Thomas 3, C. Riley 4, Boyce 2.
Keenan 53, Lakewood 49 (OT)
Tariq Simmons scored 18 points and hit two big 3-pointers late in regulation as Keenan rallied for an overtime win over Lakewood.
Keenan trailed by 13 points in the second half but held Lakewood without a basket for during a nine-minute stretch and Simmons’ 3-pointer gave the Raiders a 38-37 lead with 4:41 left.
Lakewood answered with four straight points and led 45-41 but Simmons hit a 3-pointer to pull Raiders within 45-44 and tied it at 47 with 27 seconds left. The Gators had four good shots at a game-winner but couldn’t convert.
In overtime, Keenan took a 52-49 lead on two Simmons free throws and Lakewood missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer before the Raiders hit a free throw to put it away.
Grant Singleton led Lakewood with 12 points.
L: Osborne 4, Malik Wilson 11, Grant Singleton 12, Juwan Perdue 11, Pack 5, A. Lawson 6. K: Tariq Simmons 18, Rod Marshall 10, Sanders 2, Jones 3, Taylor 2, Sligh-Rodgers 8, Stone 1, Sinkler 3.
Wilson 66, Ridge View 50
Wilson’s Alex Caldwell tied for team-high honors for 12 points in his return to Columbia.
Caldwell was a standout at Richland Northeast before transferring before the start of the school year. Jamal Bryant tied Caldwell for team-high honors for the Tigers, who are ranked No. 1 in Class 4A and improved to 11-0.
Kaiden Rice led Ridge View with 12 points.
W: Alex Caldwell 12, Jamal Bryant 12, Blake Walker 11, Jaylen Quick 11, Williamson 6, Boatwright 6, RV: High 9, Napper 7, Darien Johnson 10, Kaiden Rice 12, Ashe 2, Rogers-Anderson 7, Wilson 3.
Lower Richland 61, Cardinal Newman 57 (OT)
Tevaughn Higgins scored 19 points as the Diamond Hornets survived a late comeback to defeat Cardinal Newman for the second time this year.
Cardinal Newman finished regulation on 12-0 run to tie at 52 and had a chance to win but missed a 3-pointer. In the overtime, Lower Richland scored seven of the game’s final nine points.
Christiaan Jones led the Cardinals with 17 points.
CN: Martin 8, Chico Carter 12, Christiaan Jones 17, Pirie 6, O’Connor 8, Dunlap 2, Reed 2, Reedy 2. LR: Ja’Cor Nelson 16, Townsend 6, Tisdale 6, Tevaughn Higgins 19, Clyde Trapp 14.
Richland Northeast 52, Heathwood Hall 42
Tashawn Brockington scored 19, and Marquise Riley had eight of his 12 points during a key run in the second for the Cavaliers victory.
RNE broke a 40-40 tie with a 12-2 run to close the game.
Josh Caldwell led the Highlanders with 19 points.
HH: I. Caldwell 2, Lee 5, Josh Caldwell 19, Kemper 5, Hill 7, Joseph 4. RNE: Fuller-Davis 8, Marquise Riley 12, Goode 8, Paulk 2, Tashawn Brockington 19, Jackson 2, Davis.