APEX — Using stingy defense and clutch offensive play down the stretch, Panther Creek held off Middle Creek 42-40 in a home Wednesday night girls basketball game.
The Catamounts improved to 4-3 in Southwest Athletic Conference play despite scoring just a single basket in the first quarter and trailing throughout the fourth quarter to a pesky Mustangs squad that fell to 0-7 in the conference.
Marissa Sims’ layup off a missed free throw with just under 30 seconds remaining proved to be the difference, as Middle Creek failed to hit a layup with the clock winding down.
Middle Creek also should have had just over two seconds to get off a final shot, but an inadvertent whistle in a free throw situation left the Mustangs with just 0.3 ticks left. Officials could not put time back on the clock and a final heave at the basket wouldn’t have counted even if it went in.
“The referee said he was confused, we should have had more time left,” said Middle Creek coach Wes Petty. “But credit Panther Creek for making the last basket when they had to.”
Caila Spruill also drained an important free throw in the closing seconds for the victors, who seemed out of rhythm throughout but used a defensive press and strong rebounding to pull out the win.
Middle Creek made things tough on the home team from the outset, building a 9-2 first quarter lead as freshman guard Kylie McElroy riddled the Catamounts defense with a pair of driving layups, including a three-point play after getting fouled.
A Sims jumper and successful drive to the hoop brought Panther Creek within 9-6 early in the second quarter, before Middle Creek sophomore forward Shannon McLeod completed her own three-point play to bring her team’s bulge back to six at 12-6 four minutes in.
Middle Creek took a 17-14 lead into the break on a pair of McLeod free throws as Shotomei Greaux missed a potential tying 3-pointer at the buzzer for the Catamounts.
Greaux (11 points) was more successful to close out the third quarter, driving through the lane for a basket while getting fouled. She hit the ensuing free throw to give her team a 30-27 lead heading into the fourth stanza.
She said it felt good to pass a test from Middle Creek, which Panther Creek handled 58-43 just over two weeks ago.
“We had a hard time communicating at first and we were frustrated, but we just had to settle down,” said Greaux, who hit a layup and jumper in the final 75 seconds for the Catamounts. “We can definitely say we worked hard for this win and earned it.”
Sims, who led Panther Creek with 12 points, agreed with her teammate.
“They came in ready to play, so we had to tighten up our defense,” Sims said. “We became more confident toward the end of the game and knocked down our shots.”