Through the early going of the year, the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference is still an unpredictable basketball league.
It’s still anyone’s game as Apex’s girls scored a big 52-34 win over visiting Panther Creek but the Catamounts took the boys’ contest 79-63.
A showdown between two red-hot teams turned out to be lopsided. N&O No. 16 Panther Creek (5-6, 3-3) didn’t hit double-digits until the 6:46 mark in the third quarter and trailed 23-9 at halftime.
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Panther Creek was coming off an impressive week, having toppled Green Hope and Northwood, both previously ranked in the top 10.
N&O No. 18 Apex (9-5, 5-2) struggled with its outside shot early but began piling up the points in transition and working the ball inside. That’s been key for the Cougars when they’ve won their last six games after a 32-22 loss to SWAC leader Cary.
“We’re seeing the floor better and we’re seeing each other better. We’re seeing an increase in our assists, which is a great thing,” said first-year coach Charli Michael.
Northeastern recruit Sam Michel led all scorers with 17 points while Apex teammate Kim Schuh and Kim Skinner added 10 points each and Josie Tarlton had nine points.
“The more we play together, the more confident we get, the more our shots are falling, the more we’re passing and looking for each other, so it’s really coming together really well,” Michel said. “I think that was a wake-up call because we hadn’t lost to Cary in a really long time. We came together, we had a little meeting and we talked and we realized what we needed to do.”
Panther Creek’s Kalay Hall had 13 points and Kennedy Heath added nine.
Panther Creek (5-5, 3-3) jumped out to a 44-22 halftime lead at No. 15 Apex (7-6, 5-2) thanks to making 7 of 10 3-pointers in the first half and 3 of 5 in the second.
“I thought for the most part we played a complete game,” Panther Creek coach Shawan Robinson said.
The Catamounts had big games from post players Justin McKoy (17 points) and Tyler Smith (24 points). Point guard Riley Adams added 15.
“A few games ago we were worried about the guys on the wings turning the ball over, but they’ve kind of settled into their role a little bit and they just keep getting better,” Robinson said.
Apex’s Eric Fox led the Cougars with 19 points, while Denzel Jacobson added 15 and Chavis Coachman had 14. The Cougars closed the gap to 10 midway through the fourth quarter but could get no closer.
“(Assistant) coach (Fred) Blanks told me we didn’t get a defensive rebound the whole first quarter,” Apex coach David Neal said. “We’ve been really struggling defensively coming in. ... We’re just struggling right now on both ends of the floor.”
Apex has lost three in a row and won’t have another game until the new year. Carl Dean, who figures to be a starting guard, should be healthy by then. The break will be a welcomed one as the Cougars try to recharge the batteries following their 10th game in three and a half weeks.
“We haven’t hardly had a day to breathe or take off. I know nobody feels sorry for us, but it’s been a grind,” Neal said.