By Outer Banks Voice on December 4, 2022
Scoreboard repairman. Floor sweeper. T-shirt salesman. Hotel concierge. Tournament ambassador to players, coaches, fans and special guests.
Oh, yeah: Chad Williams also had one other small job to do in the Good Guys vs. Cancer Basketball Showcase that ran from Dec. 1-3. That was to coach the First Flight High School men’s basketball team on Friday and Saturday night.
“It’s so hard to coach in this event. The kids who get cheated are my kids,” Williams said. “I’m not there with them during the day. We haven’t practiced the last two days. Ultimately, that falls on me.”
His players, of course, wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I mean, we all understand how much effort, how much work and how much money goes into this tournament,” senior Isaac Dobie said. “So it’s never a drawback. We’re always able to get everything done.”
While Williams tended to myriad details all over the gym Saturday, his players enjoyed a team lunch at Barefoot Bernie’s and a walk-through at First Flight Middle School before arriving to watch some of Saturday evening’s anticipated battles.
Then, they hit the court and truly got everything done – dominating a previously unbeaten Kinston squad for their first-ever win over the Vikings in a 78-69 decision that had a raucous student section storming the court in celebration following the final buzzer.
“For as long as I’ve been playing basketball, Kinston has sort of been the pinnacle for eastern North Carolina public high school basketball, and I played against them when I was in high school,” Williams said. “To come out and win against them in the environment that we had, I was just so happy for our kids and our fans. All of the work, and all of the lack of sleep, and all of the frustration of having this all come together. It would have been worth it anyway, but it’s certainly a much better feeling than it was leaving here last year.”
Kinston had taken the first three tournament finales by scores of 76-58, 85-60 and 72-53. This year’s Nighthawks squad managed to withstand an early flurry of points by the Vikings as well as foul trouble on Isaac Dobie. After committing 25 turnovers in Friday’s 72-70 loss to Peninsula Catholic, FFHS didn’t commit a single turnover in the first quarter and finished the game with just nine. When Dobie sat, his sophomore brother, Mason, stepped up, as did junior Burke Powers and sophomore Joe Wagner off the bench.
“I just had to make sure I could bring the ball up, not turn it over and then set up our offense and go from there,” Mason said.
He also made a few shots, including a deep 3 in the final minute of the first half to give him 15 points at the break. Senior Cam Van Lunen, better known as a defensive standout, darted to the basket for several layups, and all the guards were able to feed senior Eli Hawk for points in the paint. Hawk also had 15 in the first half, including a buzzer beater for a 46-40 lead.
Hawk scored twice just after halftime to give the Nighthawks their first double-digit lead. He would end with 23 points and 18 rebounds, giving the offense much-needed balance from its usual long-range attack.
“I feel like it opens people up around the 3-point line and once everybody collapses down, I can get some good shots in,” Hawk said.
Isaac Dobie avoided further foul trouble and finished with eight points and nine rebounds. Back-to-back 3s by Mason Dobie and Van Lunen, followed by a Hawk bucket in the lane, pushed the margin to 70-55 midway through the fourth quarter and the celebration was on.
“We have some different pieces to our puzzle this year,” Williams said when asked about getting a big win despite shooting just 6-for-19 from the 3-point line. “Sometimes I’ve been very stubborn and pigheaded and tried to shove that square peg in a round hole, and this year we’ve got some guys that can do some different things and we’re taking advantage of what we are able to do.”