RALEIGH — Both the Cary Christian boys and girls basketball teams overcame slow starts to prevail over Eastern Plains Independent 2A Conference rivals St. David’s on Friday.
The girls’ sluggish start lasted all of a few minutes before they rolled to a 43-28 win, while the boys didn’t find their rhythm until the second half before gutting out a 54-45 win.
Defensive switch keys girls
The Knight girls started out their showdown with a full-court press. After two easy St. David’s transition baskets, Cary Christian coach Shelly Holmes called off the press and focused on getting the game into the halfcourt.
The switch worked.
Down 4-0 after two minutes, the Knights tied the game in less than a minute, then took an 8-6 lead and never looked back.
“It was just easier to play in the half court, and I just didn’t want to run them if we didn’t have to. Thankfully, it worked,” Holmes said.
Caitlyn Cannon led the barrage with 21 points, while Julie Thompson chipped in seven points, six rebounds and two blocks. Emily Clarkson added four points and seven rebounds.
Cary Christian held the Warriors to just 12 points through three quarters. Yet, St. David’s made things interesting in the fourth quarter despite trailing 33-12. They began the quarter with a 10-0 run to cut the deficit to 33-22 with 3:54 to play.
Cannon halted the run with a short jumper and proceeded to score 10 points in the next two minutes, including a back-breaking 3-pointer to push the lead to 15 with 2:12 to play.
“They figured out that they still wanted to fight. It wasn’t over and they needed to figure out how to play again. And they did,” Holmes said.
Tiffany Bartholomew had nine points to lead the Warriors, and Sophie Sheats added seven.
Cary boys patient in comeback
In their first meeting of the season on Jan. 7, Cary Christian raced out to a 15-2 lead in the first quarter en route to a 32-point victory. Knights coach Billy Thompson warned his team not to expect a similar outcome when they squared off again.
“Maybe they didn’t believe,” Thompson said afterwards.
The Knights shot an anemic 27 percent in the first half and found themselves trailing St. David’s 30-20.
To their credit, the Warriors attacked the basket and built the lead on the strength of a 55 percent shooting effort, a clip Thompson didn’t expect they would be able to keep up in the second half.
Steadily, the Knights chipped away at the lead until Devin Dukes buried a baseline 3-pointer to give Cary Christian a 33-32 lead with 1:01 remaining in the third. Moments later, Caleb Ellis (13 points) raced in for a two-handed slam just before the buzzer to give the Knights a 37-32 lead.
“Coach told us at halftime we weren’t going to get it all back at one time. A bucket at a time, a stop here, a stop there – and we were able to do that,” said Nick Smith, who scored eight of his team-high 16 points in the third quarter.
St. David’s didn’t go away though. Despite going cold and scoring just two points in the third quarter, the Warriors got within two, 46-44, after Malik Copeland’s driving bucket with 2:21 remaining.
But Cary Christian’s Carson Gray answered with a jumper at the other end, and the Knights sealed the game at the free throw line.
“Defense led the offense and that got us going,” Ellis said. “And once we get the lead, we’re pretty good when we’re out in front.”
St. David’s Copeland led all scorers with 17 points.