When a top scorer scores less than his or her average, it isn’t always a bad thing.
Case in point: Trinity Academy Raleigh’s boys basketball team pulled off a 54-46 win against Cary Christian on Tuesday, despite Messiah Pankey scoring 15 points, five less than his 20.8 average.
And other times, it’s a backbreaker for a team.
The Trinity Academy Raleigh girls lost 43-33 to Cary Christian as Kristi Demski, the school’s all-time leading scorer averaging 25.2 a game, suffered from food poisoning. She didn’t play for all but a few seconds here and there in the second half and finished scoreless.
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“She was throwing up before the game and lost a lot of fluid. It was really a no-go. We tried it, but as you could see there was nothing to give,” Trinity coach Adam King said.
The win keeps the Cary Christian girls atop the Eastern Plains Independent Conference, while Trinity’s boys pulled into third behind St. David’s and Grace Christian Raleigh.
Cary Christian’s Emily Clarkson got the defensive assignment of guarding Demski, but what proved more valuable was her rebounding.
Clarkson had 14 rebounds as the Knights used their size to beat the Tigers, who were starting two seventh-graders and were without injured starter Sarah Hitt.
“We’re a smaller team as it is, but we’re young-small, which is doubly bad,” King said.
Clarkson had two points, one of five players to score four or fewer for Cary Christian. Grace Deuser added 15 and Grace Smith had 14.
Trinity’s Haley Gray had a game-high 17 points, one of four TAR players to score.
Cary Christian (14-2, 5-0) led 26-15 at halftime but Trinity (10-4, 2-3) closed it to 30-24 with one minute left in the third quarter. Smith answered a made TAR basket with a 3 to push the lead back to 9, where it hovered around for the rest of the game.
TAR’s Founders Hall is a facility unlike any in the Triangle with parquet floors and all of the seats – some skinny bleachers and second-floor overlook on top of a cinderblock wall – across from the team benches.
And everyone in the building knew the Tigers (9-6, 2-3) were going to try to get the ball to Pankey, including Cary Christian (3-13, 1-4)
So the Knights face-guarded Pankey and kept his teammates from giving him the ball. Pankey answered by crashing the offensive glass and scoring on putbacks.
When his Tigers teammates started hitting outside shots, Trinity pulled away after leading 27-21 at halftime.
“I knew if wasn’t scoring I could do other things like rebounding or finding other people for shots too,” Pankey said.
Pankey had 15 points but the Tigers were balanced. Only five players scored: Matt Yager with (12), Luke Trebel (10), Christian King (9) and Carter Whitt (8). Pankey, a sophomore, is one of the oldest players on a team that starts a seventh and eigth grader.
“We’re probably the youngest team in the state. We’ve got guys learning how to compete and finish games,” said first-year TAR coach Bryan Burwell. “They’re figuring it out.”
Josh Dixon’s nine points led the way for Cary Christian, which is rebuilding. Last year’s conference champs had nine seniors who had played together since they were sixth-graders.
This year’s team may have seniors, but almost nobody saw significant playing time over the last few years.
“You might have a realatively older group, but they haven’t played when the game is on the line. The bottom line is they’re only about 15 games into their career, a lot of these guys,” Cary Christian coach Bill Thompson said. “We’ve really improved in the last month. Tonight was one of those ‘two steps forward, one step back.’”