East Chapel Hill got a spark from Malik McCray in the fourth quarter Friday night as the Wildcats held off Northwood 55-47.
With a little over four minutes left and his team down by two point, McCray drove to the basket and scored in traffic while drawing the foul. His three-point play was the beginning of a six-point run, all by McCray, to give the Wildcats (3-2) a 47-43 lead with 2:05 remaining.
“I love that heart in him,” said Wildcats coach Ray Hartsfield. “He’s a slasher. He wants to go to the basket. When he has a lane, he has the freedom to go to the basket, and needs to attack it. He has quickness and can finish.”
McCray finished with 12 points.
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Wildcats point guard Carter Collins led all scorers with 17 points.
The Chargers begin the season 0-2 following the loss, despite Ti Pinnix scoring 14, and Jared Worley’s 10.
Trailing by seven in the opening minutes of the third quarter, the Chargers went on an 8-0 run in a three-minute span. Kadarus Rone scored on a layup; and after two offensive rebounds, Pinnix hit his first of back-to-back 3’s.
The back-and-forth scoring in the third ended with a Collins triple the reduced the Wildcats’ deficit to just one.
“Carter is a solid young player,” said Hartsfield. “Having a point guard like him, who can hit free throws, get to the basket, find people, he can knock down the three. He’s the kind of kid we want out there.”
Though his team has a winning record in the early goings of the season, Hartsfield stressed the importance of energy and rebounding, something his team lacked for much of the game. Loose balls and offensive rebounds by Northwood allowed the Chargers to reverse their halftime deficit into a lead.
“[Offensive rebounds] was the issue tonight,” Hartsfield admitted. “We talk about the hustle play or the energy play; not only the long rebounds but also the loose balls. The second chance opportunities they had, we were lucky to come out of here with the win.
“I felt like we did a better job of going after the ball in the fourth quarter. We can’t stand and watch when a shot goes up. I think the last four minutes of the game we did a better job of not allowing second chance points, going after loose balls and we got a couple run-outs because we fought for the loose ball and pushed ahead. We have to stay focused; that’s a huge part of the game.”
East Chapel Hill returns to action on Tuesday with a non-conference game at Orange High School – girls at 5:30 p.m. and boys at 7 p.m.
Friday, the Wildcats get a return match with archrival Chapel Hill, traveling to Tiger Gym for a 6 p.m. girls’ game and a 7:30 p.m. start for the boys’ game.