Cougars top Page in MLK Classic

Jan. 21, 2013 @ 10:23 PM

The High Point Christian Academy boys didn’t start well, but eventually their experience and size took over.

The Cougars used a strong second quarter to build a double-digit lead and fended off a comeback in the third in beating Page 68-49 on Monday in the 11th annual MLK Day N.C. Scholastic Classic at the Greensboro Coliseum.

“It was kind of a surprise,” said senior guard Diante Baldwin, a UNCG commit playing on what will be his home court. “We didn’t think it’d really be a hard game. … But everybody got into a rhythm. We worked hard all week, practiced for this. So, it felt good.

“We stepped it up on defense and stopped turning the ball over so much. We got a little scrappy and played well together and started moving the ball around. There was a little bit of urgency. They came out and hit us in the mouth.”

Leading 13-10 after one quarter, HPCA (17-3), No. 4 in last week’s NCISAA 3A rankings, opened the second on a 14-3 run against the Pirates (12-4) and outscored them 20-7 in the quarter to lead 33-17 at halftime.

The Cougars forced Page into a number of tough shots and turnovers and ran well in transition, attacking the basket for fouls and easy baskets, to finally pull away from a slow start, which has been a trend — albeit a correctable one — of late, coach Brandon Clifford said.

“Unfortunately, it’s kind of been a theme lately, where we haven’t been playing with a lot of poise to open the ball game,” said Clifford, formerly a player and coach at Page. “We’re allowing teams to slow us down and stuff. They did a good job, and we were fortunate to make some shots and get away from them. 

“Then, second half, we were able to press and open it up. That’s a credit to them, and it shows us where we have to get better. We have to come into the game with more energy and impose ourselves a little earlier.”

Baldwin scored 15 points, also adding seven rebounds and six assists, followed by Jackson Kent, whose father coached at Page, with 12 points, Mike Kobani with 10 and Joey McLean with eight and five steals. Chuck Ogbodo also had 10 rebounds and six blocks.

Ty Graves scored 17 points while Anthony Eaves added 11 to lead the Pirates, who started two freshmen and one sophomore against HPCA’s five seniors. With the team not practicing for four days (due largely to weather), that youthfulness played a role, coach James Abell said.

“Having those kids off four days, I think that showed a lot early in our execution,” said Abell, the longtime head coach at T.W. Andrews. “Offensively, we were out of synch big-time. And their size really bothered us — missing some stuff we usually finish.

“Their big boys caused us problems inside, got our guys second-guessing where to go. And the strength of their guards bumping us off our driving lanes early I think slowed us down. But I thought we had a chance in the third, cut it to 10, but we just missed layups.”

Page did cut the Cougars’ lead to 10 with 5:42 left in the third, but HPCA responded with a 14-2 run to lead 52-29 heading to the fourth. From there, the Pirates got as close as 15, as the Cougars’ lead hovered near 20 the rest of the game.

HPCA once again hosts a huge matchup Friday against unbeaten and No. 1 state-ranked Greensboro Day.