There was no rest for the weary on Friday night at Cary High as a pair of busy Apex basketball teams took the floor against the Imps.
The Apex girls, ranked No. 20 by the N&O and playing their fourth game in seven nights, never found their legs and fell 32-22 to an up-and-coming Cary team. The Apex boys, ranked No. 10 and playing their third game in four nights, were able to ward off a fierce fourth-quarter comeback by the 11th-ranked Imps to hold on for a 63-58 victory.
Cary (3-1, 2-0 Southwest Wake Athletic) jumped out to a 12-2 first quarter lead but Apex (3-4, 1-1) eventually hit its stride and a Kim Skinner steal and fastbreak layup tied things at 15 apiece late in the third quarter. The Imps proved too much in the final period however, outscoring Apex 9-0 down the stretch for their third win of the young season after back-to-back five-win years.
“I thought defensively we did a lot of good things tonight,” Cary coach Patrick Daly said. “We want to learn how to play with the lead and put teams away.”
The Cary defense that gave the Imps the lead early was the same one that slammed the door shut late. After holding Apex to two points on no field goals in the first quarter to build a sizeable lead, Cary limited the Cougars to just five points on one field goal in the fourth quarter and pulled away after a narrow 23-22 lead with six minutes to play.
“That’s what we’re focusing on, kind of letting our defense spark our offense,” Daly said.
Apex’s Samantha Michel made a valiant effort to hold 6-foot-5 sophomore Tamari Key to a team-high nine points but it was when Key was not on the floor that Apex coach Charli Michael said was the difference.
“We didn’t take advantage when Tamari was not on the floor,” Michael said. “I think that’s what hurt us the most. When she was not there we had the size advantage and we just didn’t take advantage of it.”
Kim Schuh led the Cougars with 12 points.
Apex (4-2, 2-0) built a 17-point second-half lead only to watch the Imps (1-3, 1-1) piece together a 22-7 run and a Philip Blackley jumper with under two minutes to play whittled the Cougar lead down to just 55-53.
But Apex’s Eric Fox rolled in a left-handed runner and then blocked a Cary shot at the other end and – after not attempting a single free throw all night – the Cougars went a perfect 6 for 6 at the line to close things out in the final minute.
“We were really gutsy out there tonight in the second half when Cary made a great comeback,” Apex coach David Neal said. “When they made their run, we certainly could’ve turned in the tired card and just said we ran out of gas and we didn’t do that. We made winning plays at the end.”
The Cougars led 48-31 late in the third quarter before Donte Tatum’s three-point play sparked the rally for the Imps, who went on a 14-2 run before Fox’s big bucket.
Fox and Denzel Jacobson led a balanced Apex attack with 15 points apiece while Colton Williams added 14.
Tatum paced Cary with 15 points and was complemented by Jett Fortuny’s 13 and Elijah Idlett’s 12.