The boys and girls championship games of the 323 Sports Invitational hosted by Cary Academy featured thrilling comebacks and final-second heroics on Tuesday.
The Cary Academy boys basketball team cut down the nets – literally, as it turned out later – with a 49-46 win against Virginia’s Norfolk Academy. The Chargers erased a 15-point deficit as Tylor Moore scored nine of the game’s last 10 points, including the game-winning 3 with 4.4 seconds to go to win 49-46.
The Cary Christian girls also had a comeback and a last-second shot, but didn’t come away with the win. Fayetteville Christian pulled out a 71-64 win against the Knights in overtime after Cary Christian had forced overtime after erasing nine-point deficit and sent the game into overtime on a Marie Thompson 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Boys championship: It surely wasn’t easy, but the Cary Academy boys – after scoring 13 points in the first half – got a gutsy title win.
“It was all heart, it wasn’t the coaching it wasn’t us, it was the players making the comeback and deciding they didn’t want to give up, finding another gear,” Cary Academy coach Mindaugas Timinskas said.
Moore outscored the Bulldogs 9-1 by himself in the final 1:10 of regulation with all nine of his points coming in a highlight-reel fashion. The first was an ankle-breaking crossover followed up by a 3-pointer at the 1:10 mark, then an “and-1” reverse layup ensued by the game-clinching 3 with 4.4 seconds to go.
“We ran that play two times in a row, it worked both times and I decided ‘I’m going to take another 3 and I’m going to hit it,” Moore said. “We kept clawing back, kept hitting big 3s and eventually made it back. I loved our heart.”
The Chargers went to the bench to find a spark after a sluggish first half.
“Trey Murphy did a great job in the second half, when we struggled offensively he came out and made some big 3’s and got us going and started that comeback,” Timinskas said. “It’s nice to have that weapon off the bench. He delivered today.”
Moore finished with nine points from behind the arc, all of which came in the second half.
Cary Academy spurred its success by holding Norfolk’s big man, David McCormack (13 points, 10 rebounds), to only three points and one board in the second half as the Chargers evened up the battle on the glass.
“This gives us a great confidence booster because we’re going to go into conference play, which is very strong with teams like Ravenscroft and NRCA,” Timinskas said. “It’s a great way to go into the new year.”
Girls championship: Fayetteville Christian and Cary Christian went back-and-forth for the entirety of the girls championship. Thanks to six straight points to open the overtime period from tournament MVP Abigail Bullock, the Warriors pulled out a victory.
“(Bullock) is player of the year in our conference, that’s kind of expected from her,” Fayetteville Christian coach Don Gardner said. “She stepped up when we needed it, that’s what she does.”
In addition to the outburst from Bullock to initiate overtime, free throws down the stretch from Onyeka Monyei and Ciara Hampton gutted the Knights’ chances of completing the comeback win.
“We’ve got to play physical, we’ve got to get the job done as a team,” Holmes said. “I think we did a good job, but we need to finish all the quarters moving forward.”
Trailing by nine with 4:59 to go in the fourth quarter, the Knights came back with a 11-1 run to take a one-point lead with just over a minute to go.
An Aundraya Doyle put back layup and pair of free throws from Bullock put the Warriors up three with 26 seconds to go.
When Cary Christian’s Grace Smith – who finished with a game-high 27 points – had her game-tying 3-pointer clang off the rim, Marie Thompson snuck out with the loose ball, made her way to the corner and drained the equalizer at the buzzer. Thompson scored seven of her nine points in the fourth quarter.
“They do that every game, it’s nice to see different ones step up at different times,” Cary Christian coach Shelly Holmes said of her team’s role players’ ability to fill in when opponents focus on Smith.
A grinding victory against the Knights, who won their first round game 52-8 and beat third-place Trinity Academy Raleigh in the second, gives the Warriors a lot of confidence as they look to the second half the regular season.
“This win gives us a lot of confidence, Cary Christian is an excellent team… one of the best in (NCISAA 2A),” Gardner said.
Emily Clarkson recorded a double-double for Cary Christian, amassing 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Other area teams
Girls: Trinity Academy Raleigh beat North Raleigh Christian Academy in the third-place game, Grace Christian Raleigh won the fifth-place game against Cary Academy and South Wake Sabres Home School pulled out a one-point victory against Raleigh Charter to claim seventh place.
Boys: Trinity Academy Raleigh beat Raleigh Hawks Home School in the third-place game, Raleigh Charter trounced Cary Christian 42-30 in the fifth-place game and the South Wake Sabres won against Fayetteville Christian 60-48 in the seventh-place game.
Jacob Schuster, Raleigh Charter
Carter Whitt, Trinity Academy Raleigh
David McCormack, Norfolk Academy
Mike Fowler, Cary Academy
Tylor Moore, Cary Academy*
Carol-Anne Obusek, Grace Christian Raleigh
Kristi Demski, Trinity Academy Raleigh
Grace Smith, Cary Christian
Onyeka Monyei, Fayetteville Christian
Abigail Bullock, Fayetteville Christian*
Final Boys Standings
1. Cary Academy
2. Norfolk Academy
3. Trinity Academy Raleigh
4. Raleigh Hawks Home School
5. Raleigh Charter
6. Cary Christian
7. South Wake Sabres Home School
8. Fayetteville Christian
Final Girls Standings
1. Fayetteville Christian
2. Cary Christian
3. Trinity Academy Raleigh
4. North Raleigh Christian
5. Grace Christian Raleigh
6. Cary Academy
7. South Wake Sabres Home School
8. Raleigh Charter