Fans left Charlie H. Adams Gymnasium Thursday night saying the some variation of the same thing: “That’s one of the best games I’ve ever seen.”
With chaos around him, Cary boys basketball senior Cory Gensler sank a 16-footer as time ran out to answer Ian Boyd’s go-ahead floater for Apex with 12 seconds left as the Imps won 79-78.
Gensler being cool under pressure is nothing new. It’s the reason Cary coach Allan Gustafson has nicknamed him “Ice.” Gensler took a potential game-winner at the end of regulation, but the teams went into OT tied at 74.
“I thought they would bring the (double-team) again, but they didn’t and (the defender) backed up so I pulled it,” Gensler said.
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“Ian made a great play at the end, but thank God he left us 12 seconds,” Cary coach Allan Gustafson said.
Cary’s dream season continues, as the team reaches 18-0 with the win.
Thursday’s rivalry showdown was a dream game.
The stars did what everyone wanted to see. Boyd – a four-year starter and Apex’s all-time leading scorer – had 34 points, which was matched by Cary’s Donte Tatum (11-of-15 from the field, 5-of-6 from 3).
Gensler – who has 1,603 points and is moving up Cary’s most points of all-time list – nearly had a triple-double (18 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists).
There were few turnovers, fouls or misses.
Apex shot 49.1 percent from the field, 42.3 from behind the arc. Cary shot a blistering 50.9 from the field and 61.1 in 3-pointers.
The Imps and Cougars combined for 85 points in the first half (Apex led 44-41) despite having almost no fastbreak opportunities for either side. The half court execution was that good.
In one feverish stretch, from the middle of the first quarter into the beginning of the second, Apex and Cary combined to make 10 consecutive 3-pointers (Apex 6, Cary 4).
Maxx Owens saved Apex in regulation, hitting a 3, his only basket of the game, with less than a minute left to help force overtime.
After a Boyd basket brought Apex to within one, 77-76, Apex forced a 10-second backcourt violation with 26.6 seconds to go. Boyd scored on the isolation play, but there was enough time – and Gustafson didn’t call timeout, a move that paid off greatly – for Gensler to hit his winner.
Apex coach David Neal said he would take more positives away from the loss than negatives.
“To call that a great game is a massive understatement,” Neal said. “You had to be there to get the true vibe of what that was all about.”
Cary’s student section mobbed Gensler as Apex was unable to get an inbounds pass and shot off in time. The team can lock up the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference title as soon as next week, if it wins three in a row.
This week (Cary defeated Middle Creek on Tuesday and plays first-year Apex Friendship on Friday) was a giant step towards that, taking out the two teams – Apex and Middle Creek – who are next-best in the SWAC standings.
“It would mean a tremendous amount to this school,” Gustafson said. “The student body has been phenomenal, the school has really gotten behind this team.”