Ryan Tankelewicz said he’s been working on his vertical. It paid off Monday.
Tankelewicz’s tip-in at the buzzer lifted the Middle Creek boys basketball team to a 62-60 victory over rival Fuquay-Varina.
In the girls’ game, Fuquay-Varina picked up a 45-39 road over the Mustangs.
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As Fuquay-Varina gets closer to seeing some of the same Southwest Wake Athletic Conference teams for a second time early next month, the Bengals (6-4, 2-4) want to turn some close losses into close wins.
Middle Creek (1-7, 1-3) trailed 27-16 at halftime but steadily chipped away at the lead and tied it up at 35-all with less than 4 minutes to play. But a 3-pointer by Fuquay-Varina’s Aysha Diallo (10 points) was a back-breaker for the young Mustangs.
“It was huge. It definitely gave us some momentum. She has a knack of doing that,” Fuquay coach Gail Siemer said.
Ava Bethea led the Bengals with 21 points and Cierra Baker had seven. Middle Creek’s Carisma Lynn had 15 points.
“We are very young, and so part of that every day is just working on that and every single time on the floor,” Middle Creek coach Wes Petty said. “And I think if you follow our progress from where we started to where we are, we’re doing that.”
Fuquay-Varina (4-5, 2-3) led 36-28 at halftime thanks to good outside shooting and winning the battle of transition points. But Middle Creek (2-3, 2-2), which trailed almost the entire second half but did take a short lead in the fourth quarter, got big stops down the stretch including two five-second-closely-guarded calls.
The last one gave the Mustangs the ball with less than 40 seconds to play for a final shot. The ball went to Daniel Jackson, one of several newcomers from the 4AA semifinalist football team, but the shot rimmed out.
Tankelewicz came crashing in and got his right hand on it.
“When I saw him driving I knew he was going to shoot it because there were only about four seconds left, so I attacked right after that and finished it,” Tankelewicz said.
It was one of three buzzer-beaters before the end of a quarter. Fuquay-Varina’s Ladji Samoura had an uncontested layup to end the second and Middle Creek’s Robbie Frongello kissed a whirling 3-point toss off the backboard after catching the ball on a dead run.
Middle Creek, which won’t get all of its football players back until Dec. 26 (coach David Kushner said John Singleton, fresh off a Shrine Bowl appearance, will get 10 days of rest), is slowly coming together.
“We’re in a weird situation with people who have had played in as many games as they have practices all year,” Kushner said. “You can tell we’re extremely rusty. We probably missed a lot of shots we’ll make once they’re in basketball shape, but I thought, effort-wise, it was exactly what I would want in the fourth quarter.”
The Bengals are much improved from a year ago, and are hoping to make the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.
“We have a lot of options offensively. We’re still trying to lock down our defensive strategy, we’re struggling on defense at times,” coach Danny Strong said. “We have a very talented team and I think once they start to come together and trust each other that they’ll start to gel a little bit. It’s getting better each game, each practice.”