RALEIGH — Middle Creek withstood a third quarter Sanderson surge Wednesday to remain undefeated and walk away with a 52-47 nonconference win.
The Mustangs came out firing from outside, distancing themselves early on from host Sanderson, and used defensive pressure in the second quarter to capitalize off Sanderson turnovers and take a 28-20 lead into the half.
The start pleased Middle Creek coach David Kushner, who saw his team struggle from beyond the arc the night before in its Tri-9 opener against Fuquay-Varina and had been preaching the importance of picking up the defensive intensity.
“They’re finally realizing that (the defense) is extremely important,” Kushner said. “That’s been our calling card – our pressure defense.”
Middle Creek (4-0) began the second half with the same intensity, forcing two straight Spartan turnovers before Sanderson (2-2) was able to regroup.
Senior Reggie Traywick, led a third quarter run to spark the Spartans, scoring eight of his team-high 13 points.
Sanderson held the Mustangs scoreless for much of the quarter while chipping away at, and eventually taking, the lead.
Middle Creek struggled to control the ball, called for back-to-back offensive fouls and then a three seconds violation, and the Spartans capitalized by pulling ahead in the final seconds of the period to lead 39-37 going into the fourth.
But Sanderson couldn’t sustain that momentum. The Spartans didn’t score for the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, and the Mustangs looked poised to coast to a win.
The Spartans tried to close the gap again, pulling within two points in the final minute. Nnamdi Okoro got a steal as Middle Creek looked to push the ball up court against Sanderson’s full-court press, but the junior was called for a travel, giving the ball back to the Mustangs.
Forced to foul to stop the clock, the Spartans put Middle Creek’s Quinton Jackson at the line and the sophomore calmly sank his shots for the win. Jackson led all scorers with 16 points and added 11 rebounds for a double-double. Senior Khamari Bobbitt added 12 points.
“Overall we’re getting better,” Kushner said. “One thing we didn’t do (against Fuquay-Varina) was play two good halves of basketball, and although the third quarter wasn’t pretty, our guys bounced back tonight, and I’m proud of that.”