A matchup between two of the youngest teams in the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference understandably produced some sloppy moments, but Middle Creek did enough in the second half to keep Cary winless with a 43-26 victory on Tuesday night.
The Mustangs (3-5, 2-1) survived an 8-0 deficit to start the game and a third-quarter Imps surge to pull away.
“I’m proud of what our kids did, responding to the bell, getting up when we took that punch,” Middle Creek coach Wes Petty said. “It’s a good win for us, and we’ve got to continue to build on. We’ve only got two seniors, so every day is still a learning process.”
Cary (0-7, 0-3) starts three sophomores and one freshman but grabbed a 24-20 lead midway through the third. The Imps, though, couldn’t sustain that success.
“That was the discussion we had,” Cary coach Patrick Daly said of his post-game speech. “What are we afraid of? Why are we afraid to be successful? In all honesty, I’m not even sure we realized we had the lead at that point. I had to tell them during one timeout, ‘We don’t need to crazy here. Let’s take our time, settle in, work the ball, move the defense, get a good look.’ It’s just going to take time.”
Sophomore guard Megan Cannady drained two 3-pointers as Cary took a 24-20 lead with 3:55 left in the third.
But Middle Creek freshman Cassie Beam drained a 3, Julia Creasy scored a bucket a Natalie McBryde converted a three-point play after a nifty fastbreak pass from Beam to push the Mustangs in front for good, 28-24.
“We got out on the break a little bit, we got some stuff inside,” Petty said. “That kinda helped open some other things for us, and then things started clicking a little bit better.”
They said it
“At the beginning of the year, we were looking really rough,” Creasy said. “We weren’t playing well together, but we got to know each other and went from there. We’re still getting to know each other and we still have progress to make, but we’re doing better.”
Three who mattered
Creasy, Middle Creek: Creasy got the Mustangs back in the game with a pair of 3s in the first quarter, and her defense helped keep Cary at bay in the fourth. She finished with a game-high 12 points.
“They jumped on us 8-0 like that,” Petty said. “We had to come back, and Jules comes in and hits a couple buckets for us to get back in the mix. Then it’s a battle the rest of the way.”
Kylie McElroy, Middle Creek: The junior point guard helped steady Middle Creek, and she chipped in with 10 points.
A.J. Moore, Cary: The 6-foot-3 was a defensive force, blocking seven shots and altering more. Just a sophomore, Moore continues to improve on both ends of the court.
“A.J. has played well,” Daly said. “She’s progressed nicely from her freshman year. When she realizes that she doesn’t have to block shots to be a defensive force and she alter shots, she’s going to be an even better shot-blocker. … Defensively, she’s given us a presence in there.”
By the numbers
2: Fourth-quarter points for Cary, both on Anna Padiak free throws. The Imps missed all 11 shots from the floor in the quarter.
25: Combined percent shooting for both teams. Middle Creek was 13 for 51, while Cary made 10 of 41.
38: Combined turnovers, 17 for the Mustangs and 21 for the Imps
Cary didn’t have a single second-chance point, thanks for Middle Creek’s prowess on the glass.
“Natalie got in there, Lily (Podolsky) got in there, Makayla (Patrick) got in there, and we had some guards sneaking on the back side,” Petty said. “Julia got in there, Kylie got in there. I think we had a nice balance of kids getting in there to limit those second chances.”
With freshman point guard Ariana Smith and sophomores Moore, Cannady and Lauren Fisher in the starting lineup, Cary clearly has had some growing pains – and will continue to. The Imps miss 6-foot-4 freshman Tamari Key – out indefinitely from knee surgery – and this season will be a struggle.
But Daly isn’t giving up, and he hopes his young team doesn’t either.
“It’s just getting to know each other because we are a new bunch, we are very young,” Daly said. “A lot of the little things – like we just talked about in the locker room – they’re just not there yet. They just need time. We’ve got a lot of pieces to the puzzle. It’s just a matter of being able to stick with a piece when it doesn’t fit, so to speak.”