Kyle Watkins hasn’t been one to miss games due to injury.
Not as a Carolina Forest football receiver, and certainly not as a basketball guard. So, after having to miss a full game and parts of two more thanks to a sprained shoulder, the Panthers junior was ready to get back at it full-tilt on Friday.
St. James sort of wished he hadn’t.
Watkins scored seven points, but his fingerprints were all over the rest of the game via assists, steals and rebounds. And thanks in large part to his effort, the Sharks were visibly beaten before the end of the third quarter of Carolina Forest’s 78-55 win Friday.
“I just try to get everybody involved — play hard on defense and get out and run,” said Watkins who suffered a sprained A.C. joint in his right shoulder on Jan. 14 against South Florence.
The high-motor point guard seemed to be getting the most out of his teammates, too.
In total, 12 Panthers scored in the game. There were double-digit efforts from Grant Warren (14 points), Corbin Pack (13), Jonah Nesmith (10) and Mikah Nelson (10).
Jeremiah Nesbitt scored a game-high 17 points for St. James, and Candido Ortiz-Robles dropped another 15 of his own. However, they didn’t have enough help around them in the second half to keep up the type of pace necessary to stay in the game.
Carolina Forest scored 43 second-half point to run away with a region victory after back-to-back losses. It created a three-way tie between the Panthers, Sharks and West Florence at 3-2, with each of those teams two full games back of 5-0 Conway.
And if Carolina Forest is going to make a run at one of the region’s top two spots, it knows it had a much better chance with Watkins on the court.
“We’re very different, just from his experience and leadership,” first-year coach Emmanuel Dewalt said. “He does a really good job of picking tempo. He can pick spots when we need him to score, but also he does a really good job of getting everyone else involved. He’s really important for us. When he gets the other guys going, it opens up things for him, which allows us to be pretty effective offensively.”
CAROLINA FOREST GIRLS TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS AGAIN
The Panthers' girls basketball team looked more than prepared to stay perfect in region play.
And they did just that.
Stacy Hughes’ team used a sizable run to overcome an early deficit in the opening quarter and then maintained its own advantage for the rest of the game en route to a 49-20 victory. Carolina Forest got 18 points from Ally Niles and a 10-steal, eight-point, eight-assist night from Gabby Giracello.
Carolina Forest, which led 21-10 at halftime, never led by fewer than double digits throughout the entire second half. It dropped the Sharks to 0-5 in region play.
The Panthers, meanwhile, pushed their region record to 5-0 and maintained a full one-game lead over second-place West Florence after the first half of region games concluded.