Nov. 20—MYRTLE — Jabari Wright has slid comfortably into a bigger scoring role for H.W. Byers.
With top scorer Michael James having graduated, the onus now falls on Wright as the Lions seek another deep run in the state tournament. The senior guard was up to the task Monday afternoon, notching a career-high 35 points in a 65-36 throttling of Nettleton at the Myrtle Thanksgiving Tournament.
"Coming into the season, with (James) gone, I knew I was going to have to lock in, make sure I was there for my team every game so we can come out with the win," Wright said.
He showed an ability to score from every spot imaginable on the court. He knocked down six 3-pointers and also knifed through Nettleton's defense for layups on several occasions.
"He's very athletic, very quick. He's hard to handle," Byers coach Fred Stafford said.
The Lions (5-1) led 29-19 at halftime, by which point Wright had 23 points. Nettleton (1-3) had pulled within 18-15 when Wright converted a six-point play. He was fouled on a made 3-pointer, then a Nettleton player drew a technical foul, and Wright drained all three free throws to make it 24-15.
The Tigers tried to shoot their way back into it, to no avail. They made just 19.4% of their field goals, including 12.9% (4 of 31) from behind the arc. And while Nettleton out-rebounded Byers 40-38, it failed to cash in on several second-chance shots.
Omarrious Johnson snagged 14 rebounds for Byers to go with his 11 points.
"He's just a sophomore. He earned his stripes this summer, and he's been picking it up ever since," Stafford said.
Corey Willis had eight boards, while Mardarian Euell had 10 points and six rebounds. This was the first action of the season for the burly Euell after healing from an ankle sprain.
H.W. Byers reached the Class 1A semifinals last season, and based on what he's seen thus far, Wright likes his team's chances of getting back to Jackson.
"I feel like this year is a better team than last year, because we've got more people that are able to do what they want to do and hit shots," he said. "I feel like when we get up there, we'll be able to win this year."
Anterion Venson led Nettleton with 18 points.
Turning Point: Byers went on an 11-0 run in the third quarter to open up a 44-23 lead.
Point Man: Wright shot 13 of 27 from the field, including 6 of 12 from 3-point range, and made all three of his free throw attempts.
Talking Point: "He's very important for me this year. He's my leading man, my assist man, so he does it all." — Stafford, on Wright