CARY — The Cary girls’ basketball team overcame a 17-point second half deficit to nip Panther Creek 47-46 on Friday, keeping their postseason hopes alive in a rare quad event at the Catamount’s home gym.
Panther Creek hosted all four games, including both junior varsity contests. The Catamount boys prevailed in the nightcap with an 82-70 victory, moving themselves into good playoff position with one week to go in the regular season.
Aisha Henry drained a 3-pointer with 35 seconds left to give the Lady Imps their first and only lead. Henry, a junior, caught a perfect pass from Ashanti Kindred with Cary trailing 46-44.
Panther Creek’s shot to regain the lead went in and out of the basket with 14 seconds left, and Azura Stevens secured the rebound.
The Imps (7-7 Tri-9) have won five in a row since the return of Stevens, a 6-foot-5-inch center, from injury.
Stevens led Cary with 19 points, but it was the Imps pressure defense, led by senior Whitney Coleman, that helped them erase a 12 point deficit in the final period and limit Panther Creek to just six fourth quarter points. Coleman scored eight of her 13 points in the period, mostly by turning steals into fast break baskets.
“Our emphasis was to be all over their guards, play strong defense and to play as a team,” said Coleman, who will play for UNC-Greensboro next year. “We didn’t crumble when we got down, and then once we got our ball pressure going it led to those fast breaks.”
Five teams are chasing three playoff spots in the conference. Panther Creek (8-7 Tri-9) will close the season next week against conference leader Green Hope, while Cary also plays the Falcons and Athens Drive.
“We’ve battled adversity all season and I always said we’d be a second half team,” said Cary head coach Patrick Daly. “We give it our all until the final horn sounds. Tonight was impressive, a total team effort.”
The Catamounts led 26-16 at intermission and then 40-28 entering the fourth. Panther Creek jumped out to the lead behind sharp shooting, including six three pointers. Senior forward Waverly Peng paced the Catamounts with 14 points, but Cary was able to hold senior center Allie Tuttle (eight points) scoreless in the second half.
“Cary battled back and you have to give them a lot of credit for their ball pressure,” said Panther Creek head coach Geoff Bowman. “Allie got us rolling but we just couldn’t get her the ball in the second half. This group of girls are a lot of fun to coach and they will hold their heads up high.”
Catamounts win comfortably
Panther Creek (8-7 Tri-9) led wire-to-wire, enjoying a double-digit win for the first time in weeks after playing several tight games in a row. The victory put the Catamounts in good position to clinch a playoff spot next week.
Gaqwez Hudson led the Catamounts with 24 points, followed by Akeem Tate (21), Juan Munoz (17) and Josh Maciejewski (16).
“Lately every game we’ve been in, with the exception of Lee County, came down to the last possession,” said Panther Creek head coach L.J. Hepp. “I’m not surprised how many shots we made, because we are a good shooting team, but I loved the way we moved the basketball to get those shots. It’s a lot of fun to see the ball move and know the kids are working together.”
Panther Creek sank seven 3-point shots in the first period and finished with 10, as their unselfish play resulted in plenty of open looks.
Cary (4-10 Tri-9) trailed 37-33 at halftime and 58-50 after three, but were unable to overcome a lack of depth as the fresher Catamounts pulled away in the final period.
Senior Nick Ciampa and junior C.J. Lyon each led the Imps with 21 points apiece.
Panther Creek, Lee County and Holly Springs are battling for the remaining two Tri-9 playoff spots.