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February 18, 2012

Hicks leads Webb to conference title

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.--- Behind 23 points and 16 rebounds from future Tar Heel Isaiah Hicks, Oxford Webb claimed the 3-A Carolina 6 Conference championship Friday night with a 76-69 victory over Chapel Hill in CHHS's gym.

Hicks had nine points in the fourth quarter alone, helping Webb take control late in the game after blowing an 11-point halftime lead in the third quarter.

"My teammates helped me," Hicks said humbly after the game. "It felt good. It showed that we can really play as a team. I didn't know I had 23 points---I missed so many shots---but thank God I have a team. We're just a team right here."

Playing in front of his future head coach Roy Williams and several current UNC players didn't intimidate Hicks, who broke out of the gate with 12 first half points as Oxford Webb built a 31-20 halftime lead.

Hicks admitted that it was inspiring for him to see Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Leslie McDonald, P.J. Hairston, and Justin Watts along the baseline taking in his performance and rooting for him.

He's going to reciprocate by returning to Chapel Hill for Saturday's UNC-Clemson game in the Smith Center.

"It shows me I'm really part of the family now (having them there)," Hicks said. "I'm really part of the family, and I'm really glad they came out to support me, so I have to support them more. It's really good."

Webb's 11-point halftime lead slowly dissipated during the third quarter as Chapel Hill, who came in with a perfect 25-0 record, pulled within 37-33 midway through the period, and then tied the game at 48-48 with 1:14 left in the period following back-to-back three-pointers.

"Chapel Hill was not undefeated for nothing. They are a great team. I thought you saw two great teams play a great high school basketball game, and you got to see a bunch of great players excel in the limelight," said Webb head coach Leo Brunelli.

Chapel Hill took a 52-51 lead heading into the fourth quarter but Hicks began to take over down the stretch, scoring multiple field goals to help Webb build back its lead to 67-48 with just over four minutes left.

"I just had to play through it (Chapel Hill's second half surge), but we made some shots," Hicks said. "We just had to calm down. They were playing their game, and we just had to make them play our game."

Hicks continued to apply pressure as the clock wound down on both ends of the floor, and Chapel Hill, missing 11 of its final 13 shots, was unable to catch up.

The final buzzer kicked off a spirited celebration for Oxford Webb, which had lost two games previously this season against the Tigers.

The teams could very well see each other again in a couple of weeks in the NCHSAA 3-A state playoffs.

"Yeah, I'm excited. It feels so good. That was an undefeated team---I had forgotten they were undefeated---but I guess it was just supposed to happen. We just want to win," Hicks said.

"This basketball atmosphere, I know our crowd held their own, but Chapel Hill also. I mean, I think this is what it's all about. It's just unbelievable," added Coach Brunelli. "Tonight's a night to be thankful. It was one fun evening in the gym."

Brunelli was naturally pleased with the way Hicks put the ball in the basket late in the game when Webb needed his production the most, but he said that Hicks has been helping the Warriors win other games even when he's not scoring late.

With his outstanding length and athleticism Hicks is a terror defending smaller players and he can really clean up on the glass.

He spent much of the game Friday night disrupting any Chapel Hill shooter or ball handler in his perimeter and grabbing their missed shots.

"Wednesday night against Cardinal Gibbons, he didn't score a point in the fourth quarter and we ended up winning," Brunelli said. "It just shows you when you have a great player---I had the good fortune to coach against Chris Paul when I was in the western part of the state back in the day---great players make everyone around them great, and that's what you're seeing."

The Warriors were already a pretty solid squad before Hicks became eligible and started playing for them in January, but now that they've got the future Tar Heel, they're good enough to beat anyone in the state that they play.

"We can do anything. We can play big teams. We just have to make them play our game," Hicks said.

"No offense to Isaiah, but we've got a pretty good team around him," added Coach Brunelli. "We've got some pretty good guys around him. We weren't 9-3 without him accidentally."

"Our kids have worked so hard, and Chapel Hill is such a great team. Our conference is so strong. You've got to come to win. You want that championship because it's something to build on. I'm just so proud of the kids. We just played good Warrior team basketball tonight."








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