Entering Friday night’s game, it had been 11 years since the Durham Academy’s boys basketball team had beaten arch-rival Ravenscroft.
On Friday night, the Cavaliers finally put an end to that streak, overcoming an 11-point deficit in the third quarter for a 53-43 win on the back of some torrid three-point shooting.
It is Ravenscroft’s first loss to a Triangle Independent Schools Athletic Conference opponent, in either the regular season, a conference tournament or state playoffs, since 2006 – a streak of 92 games.
“We’ve played this way all year long,” Durham Academy coach Tim McKenna said. “We’ve played a lot of really good teams, and we’ve played a lot of teams that are physically bigger than us, athletically better than us at positions, and we’re 19-5.”
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The Ravens jumped out to an early 6-0 lead, then the two teams went blow for blow equally the rest of the first half. Unlike the last matchup, where Durham Academy struggled to rebound against the larger Ravenscroft unit, senior Nick Beischer was able to tally seven boards in just the first half en route to 10 for the game. The Cavaliers couldn’t narrow the margin, however, entering the break trailing by six.
In the third quarter, the Ravens stretched the lead to as high as 11, pounding the Cavaliers with their size even without senior Douglas Elks who missed the contest with an injury. Senior Ian Dubose made his second home on the free-throw line, with 10 of his 20 points coming from the stripe.
Beischer gave Durham Academy its first sign of life in the third frame, hitting back-to-back buckets in the low post. The Cavaliers were still down eight after McKenna was called for his first-ever technical after questioning a referee about a call, but a Ravens turnover and foul on junior Charlie Mendys’ buzzer-beating shot to end the third was where the pendulum decisively swung.
A rabid student section grew progressively louder with each successive free throw, and when Mendys hit the first shot of the fourth quarter to make it a single possession game, the crowd became a key factor.
“It was unbelievable,” McKenna said. “In my 11 years here, that was probably the most boisterous crowd that we’ve had. They were in it from the get-go until the horn sounded.”
With the energy of the building swirling behind them, the Cavaliers knocked down four successive threes to open the fourth quarter and turn an 11-point deficit into an eight-point lead on the backs of a 21-5 run. Whether it was the crowd or bad luck, the Ravens’ shots just stopped falling.
“I think 90 percent of our shots were really good shots, they just didn’t go in,” Ravenscroft coach Kevin Billerman said. “We attacked the basket really well, we just didn’t convert. It was that kind of night.”
The Ravens could draw no closer than six, and the Cavaliers iced the game on the free throw line for the final margin. When the horn sounded, the student section stormed the court to celebrate Ravenscroft’s first loss in more than 90 straight conference games.
The night was not completely lost for the Ravens, though. In the girl’s game beforehand, Ravenscroft used a strong third quarter to pull away from the Cavaliers and notch a 52-37 win — avenging a loss from the previous meeting this season. Lynn Johnson keyed the win for the Ravens with 17 points, including 11 in a pivotal third quarter where she helped her team seize control.
Durham Academy’s Izzy Strigel scored 17 points of her own to pace the Cavaliers, which put the junior over a thousand points for her career and added to the historic nature of the evening. She’s one of six Cavaliers to hit that mark, with another season to go to climb the list.
“Izzy has worked extremely hard over the last two, three years and has improved significantly,” Durham Academy head coach Krista Gingrich said. “I can’t say enough of how hard work is paying off for her right now.”