Wesleyan rallies past HPCA
The Wesleyan Christian boys remained calm and confident. Even down double-digits in the second half, they knew they would have a chance in the end.
The Trojans, ranked No. 2 among NCISAA 3A teams, rallied over the final 91⁄2 minutes of the game to overcome the deficit and pull out a very hard-fought 49-46 win Tuesday against No. 4 High Point Christian in a jam-packed gym at Wesleyan.
“I personally think High Point Christian, us and Greensboro Day are the best teams in the state,” said Wesleyan coach Keith Gatlin, who highly praised the school's student section for its support. “It’s unfortunate we’re in the same conference. But it was big for us to gut out a win like this.”
Theo Pinson scored 20 points to lead the Trojans (16-5, 4-1 PACIS), who won the teams’ previous matchup 45-39 on Jan. 8. Donovan Gilmore also had 15 while JaQuel Richmond added seven — including the go-ahead basket on a runner with 45 seconds left.
Wesleyan trailed 30-22 at halftime and twice by 10 — the last time with 1:49 left in the third — before scoring the final four points of the third and first four of the fourth and tied it 41-41 with 5:40 left. The lead changed thrice before Richmond’s basket and DeShaunte Carelock’s free throws to go up three.
“We knew they were going to come out and fight as hard as they could,” said Pinson, a junior guard. “So, we just had to fight through the adversity. We knew they were going to make their run; we knew we’d make our run. Luckily, our run came at the end of the game.”
The Cougars (17-5, 1-3 PACIS) had two good looks on their final two possessions — including a 3-pointer that would’ve tied it just before the buzzer — but both missed. Joey McLean had 10 points to lead HPCA while Diante Baldwin followed with nine and Chuck Ogbodo added eight.
HPCA, coming off a close loss at No. 1 Greensboro Day on Saturday, used spurts at the end of the first and second quarters to build its eight-point halftime lead. But, as has been the case in several of its previous losses, just a couple missed opportunities late proved crucial.
“We’re right there,” Cougars coach Brandon Clifford said. “We’ve got to put two halves together. We’re competing, but we’re just kind of losing our composure down the stretch. Last year, we won all these close games. But we’re hoping that going through this now will help us. ...
“We had a 10-point lead in the second half — you’ve got to win the game. To do that, you’ve got to take care of the ball, and you can’t give them extra possessions. You’ve got to finish the easy baskets, and you’ve got to make your free throws. You’ve got to do the little things, and that’s how you win basketball games.”
Both teams play again Friday, with Wesleyan traveling to Calvary Baptist and HPCA visiting Forsyth Country Day.