WEEK 4 ➡️ Combine Academy (Lincolnton, NC)
What's up?! Welcome back to this week's series of "Hoop State Team of the Week," where we pick the best NC team each week. There were many big games this week and a lot of big wins, but I had to pick the team that had the biggest one, and that was Combine Academy's win over The Burlington School (TBS).
After a two week hiatus, it was Combine's first game, so some rust was expected. On the opposite end, TBS was coming off a win the night before over Bobby Pettiford's South Granville Vikings. However, TBS being more "in the swing of things" didn't mean a thing to Combine as they had a hot defensive start jumping out to an early lead. TBS was able to keep it close in the first half through an excellent defensive effort from Kuluel Mading(4r, 4b) and an offensive attempt from UNCW commit Jamari Thomas(7pts, 3a). Combine's shots weren't falling this half, but they still looked outstanding; they were able to move the ball in transition with ease and force turnovers off of some of TBS's weaker ball handlers. The two players who stood out for them in the first half were Robert Dillingham (5pts,2r, 2a,1stl) and AJ Smith (7pts, 3r). Combine lead 23 to 20 at the half.
Combine came out of the half HOT with a few fast-break buckets jumping out to a 29-20 lead. But about halfway through the third is when they took off and broke through that two-week rust I talked about earlier. Combine took a 38-25 lead with about 2:45 to go in the third. TBS tried to battle back at the beginning of the fourth, getting it as close as 9 points, but Combine did not allow it. They owned the fourth quarter and had everybody knocking down threes, including a dagger of a transition three from Dillingham. They were able to close at the game effortlessly, winning 65-49. The top guys from them were Dillingham (18pts, 6r, 4a, 5stl) and A.J Smith (11pts, 6r).
Combine's ability to move the ball out into transition and their defense to offense mentality, along with Jeff McInnis's coaching, is what won them this game. A team coming off a two-week break usually can't compete at the level Combine did today, but when you have a coach like McInnis, you can. Even though they didn't play for two weeks, I know McInnis kept them in that game time mentality both physically and mentally. You could see his players follow his leadership and game plan to get them this huge win.
This team of the week spot was hard-earned and well deserved. Combine Academy is one of the best teams in NC and the country. And although they've had some ups and downs this season, there is nobody who wants to see this team on their schedule come playoff time.
If you want to see this team of the Week squad play, check them out on Tuesday in Hoop State's game of the year against last week's team of the week, Lake Norman Christian school. This game is going to be crazy!
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