HPCA holds off GDS
Maybe it was them being in a similar position and losing at Greensboro Day earlier this year. Maybe it was just them being sick of losing a number of other close games this year.
Whatever the motivation, the High Point Christian boys were determined to finish the job — and this time they did.
After Greensboro Day rallied from a nine-point halftime deficit, the No. 4 Cougars played well defensively and converted at the free-throw line over the final six minutes of the game to beat the No. 3 Bengals 64-55 on Tuesday night at High Point Christian.
“I’m going to exaggerate and say it was biggest possible win we could have at this point in our season,” HPCA coach Brandon Clifford said. “It’s been a frustrating year. Not too many teams are frustrated at 22-6, but that includes five losses that we had the lead or were tied with five minutes or less to go in the game and we just didn’t close them out.
“Tonight, we toughed it out. Greensboro Day is an unbelievably tough team, and I knew they would come back at us and they did. But instead of folding, our guys buckled down and did what we had to do. That locker room’s been a tough place after so many games this year, because we know we’re a talented team. But we’re hopeful this is the springboard we need coming down the stretch.”
The Cougars (22-6, 4-3 PACIS 3A), who led for three quarters before falling 61-58 at Greensboro Day on Jan. 26, clung to a two-point lead heading to the fourth and trailed by one with 6:43 left. But HPCA answered with key scores on four of their next five possessions.
Joey McLean hit four free throws and then, after the Bengals scored five straight to lead by one with 3:38 left, Jackson Kent hit a 3-pointer and McLean again hit two free throws with 2:57 left to lead 59-55. McLean hit 5 of 6 free throws in the final minute to seal it.
“It’s a big win,” McLean said. “We’ve been coming close to the big teams and losing. We should’ve beaten them, but we haven’t been finishing at the end. Tonight, we finished, played defense and we played tougher. We got the stops when we needed them and got rebounds.
“It was in the back of our minds,” he said of the close losses. “There was a lot of anger built up. So, we released it on Greensboro Day and came out with a win.”
McLean finished with 15 points and six assists while Kent had 17 points and Mike Kobani had 14 points to lead HPCA, which was without Diante Baldwin after he took a nasty fall in the first half and sat out as a precaution. Reggie Dillard and Jonathan Terry each had 13 points for the Bengals (31-3, 6-2).
The Cougars never trailed in the first half, building a seven-point lead early in the second. GDS rallied to tie it before HPCA finished the half on a 12-3 run to lead 38-29 at halftime. The Bengals then opened the second half on a 12-4 run to pull within 42-41 with 4:53 left before taking the lead early in the fourth.
“We got up one and then we didn’t cover their best shooter, who shoots a wide-open 3,” GDS coach Freddy Johnson said. “Then we come down and miss three layups. ... You can’t miss three layups and shoot 7 for 13 from the free-throw line. They made theirs and we didn’t make ours. Give them the credit, they did everything well.”
The Cougars play again Thursday at home against nonconference Walkertown before wrapping up regular-season play Saturday at Calvary Baptist. The state playoffs begin Tuesday, with the top four seeds earning byes. The second round, semifinals and finals will be Thursday through Saturday in Charlotte.