Cougars pull away from Wildcats

Jan. 03, 2013 @ 11:20 PM

Westchester Country Day tried to slow the High Point Christian boys. But eventually the Cougars broke free.

HPCA, ranked No. 3 among NCISAA 3A teams, used a 15-0 run in the second quarter to grab the lead for good and a 15-4 run to close the third to fend off the Wildcats and win 64-48 on Thursday at Westchester.

“I was very pleased. I thought it was a very mature win on our part, with them trying to slow us up,” Cougars coach Brandon Clifford said. “That’s kind of against how we play, but we have a lot of confidence in our halfcourt defense and we relied on that tonight.

“We wanted to take what we could get, get easy baskets — and we wanted to win. That was the most important thing. Get a win, not get frustrated with the pace or anything. The way we’ve guarded this year, we have to be OK playing in the 40s and 50s and feel confident in getting that stop.”

Trailing by one early in the second, HPCA, coming off strong holiday tournament performances in Florida and Raleigh, scored 15 straight points to lead 28-14 with 48 seconds left in the first half. Isiah Gill and Rick Mack sparked the run with back-to-back 3-pointers.

“It was ball movement,” said senior guard Jackson Kent, who also had a back-to-back layups during the run. “When Mike gets the ball inside and other people start knocking down shots, they have to back off. Everybody can shoot on our team, so you have to kind of choose.”

Mike Kobani scored 13 points, including nine in the first quarter, and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Cougars (13-2), who play at Charlotte Christian on Saturday, while Kent followed with 10 points and Diante Baldwin had a solid all-around game with eight points, seven rebounds and six assists.

Westchester battled with HPCA throughout the game, using a triangle-and-2 on Gill and Kent on defense and patiently looking for open opportunities on offense. After falling behind, the Wildcats did claw within six with 3:03 left in the third before the Cougars pulled away.

“The key for our guys is to understand that good teams capitalize on every mistake,” Westchester coach Dagan Nelson said. “Unfortunately, we made too many and they capitalized on them. But I was really proud of our kids’ effort. They battled, they fought and tried to do what they could do.

“We’ve got to take the positives and build on them into conference. I told the kids just now that we have 11 games left in the regular season and 10 are conference games. We have to take one game at a time and use games like this as a springboard and make sure we follow through next game.”

Josh Burton scored 15 points, including three 3-pointers, while Sadeeq Bello followed with 13 and Bruno Beca had nine to lead the Wildcats (4-9), who have faced a number of tough opponents so far as they they now head into the heart of conference play starting tonight at Trinity of Durham.