ROCKINGHAM — Raider Gymnasium was full Wednesday night with mainly three colors. The first was Raider green. The other two were different shades of blue.
Although Wake Forest and N.C. State were represented on the court, it was fans of North Carolina and Duke University that most showed their pride by wearing what they believe is the correct shade of blue.
The 2016 ACC Barnstorming Tour made its first stop in Rockingham on Wednesday. Regardless of the fact that two Tar Heel players — point guard Marcus Paige and forward Joel James — were part of the team’s regular rotation during Monday’s loss in the NCAA National Championship in Houston, it didn’t stop them from competing in front of Raider Nation.
Brice Johnson was also scheduled to appear but wasn’t able to attend due to taking a class he needs in order to graduate, according to Mike Sumner with the Barnstorming Tour.
“It’s the best thing for them to get back out and compete and forget about it,” Sumner said about Carolina’s loss to Villanova Monday.
It’s been a long season for Paige and he said as much Wednesday night, but said was happy he was able to take part in a local exhibition game.
“I’m exhausted,” he said. “But this gives people a chance to come out and give their support. It’s kind of laid back.”
Paige, who said after he graduates will find an agent and start preparing for the upcoming NBA Draft, was right about the exhibition being a little more relaxed.
The Richmond County team was able to keep the game close during the first half of the game, only being down 20-14 at one point. That was as close as they would get to the lead.
In the second half, the ACC players opened up a little more and relaxed while throwing more alley-oops or throwing down their own big dunks to build their lead to 57-35 at the half.
Duke center Marshall Plumlee, after scoring his team’s first six points on dunks, dominated in the paint — not surprising seeing as how he was literally a foot taller than any player on the Richmond County team. Plumlee was also intimidating down low, often making players who were driving the lane alter their shots or pull up for a jumper.
“It feels great to be able to give back to the state,” Plumlee said about the state’s dedicated basketball fans. “They respect and appreciate good basketball. It’s also great to team up with some of the guys that you’re used to playing against.”
With the lead well in hand, Wake Forest forward Devin Thomas even handed a pass off to one of the referees to take a 3-pointer. That shot didn’t fall, but plenty of others did as the ACC All-Star team finished off the Richmond County team 103-68.
For Thomas, just like many other players who have participated in the ACC Barnstorming Tour over the years, it was a game that these guys have been waiting for.
“It’s fun. It keeps us in shape, and it’s a great opportunity,” said Thomas. “All of us have seen upperclassmen who have played before they left, and we want our experience.”
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-817-2674, follow him on Twitter @mattyharrelson and listen to him at 12:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays on G-104.3 FM.