Panther Creek’s girls basketball team took a celebration page from Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, but they waited until the game was over to snap an impromptu team photo.
Once the Catamounts’ 51-48 upset of Green Hope was complete Friday night at the Panther Creek gym, they gathered around “The Fight for 55” sign and posed for snapshots. The sign, with logos of Falcons and Catamounts positioned around a copy of a state highway road sign, has become a symbol the rivalry between the two neighboring schools.
“This win is for huge for us,” said Panther Creek senior guard Shotomei Greaux, who scored 34 points. “This was my last time playing against Green Hope. I wanted to take this win home.”
The victory avenged an earlier loss to Green Hope and knocked the Falcons out of a tie for first place in the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference. The Catamounts improved to 15-5 overall and 9-4 in the SWAC, while Green Hope (16-4, 9-2) trails Holly Springs (14-3, 10-1).
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In the nightcap, Green Hope’s boys also avenged an earlier loss to the Catamounts by hanging on for a 55-52 victory. Green Hope improved to 14-6 and 7-5, while Panther Creek fell to 11-9 and 8-5.
Panther Creek responded to fans filling up the home side of the gym for the start of the girls game by jumping out to a 20-5 lead in the first quarter that was still 20-9 advantage by the end of the period. The girls and boys varsity games were preceded by two JV contests as part of the Friday quad format.
“Our fans have been great,” Greaux said. “When we’ve had quad games against Green Hope and Apex, they’ve turned out. That means a lot. It shows they care about the girls game and the boys game.”
Green Hope coach Mike Robinson was disappointed in his team.
“We didn’t come out playing at all,” Robinson said. “They beat us in every aspect of the basketball game. We have to be ready to play, especially against a rival.”
The Falcons gradually chipped away at Panther Creek’s lead, but the Catamounts helped. They only scored five points in the second quarter and 10 in the third to cling to a 35-32 lead entering the fourth period.
But Greaux took over the game in the final period, scoring 14 of her team’s 16 points. She drove the lane for three field goals and hit eight of 10 free throws.
Kelly Fitzgerald led Green Hope with 16 points and Nia Washington added 12.
Green Hope’s Drew Hegeman scored six fourth-quarter points to finish with 12 points as the Falcons held off Panther Creek’s rally.
The Falcons left the court cheering, shouting and slapping the wall above the doorway entrance to the visiting locker room.
“The ‘Fight for 55’ is as big as an NCAA tournament game to us,” Hegeman said. “They’re right down the road from us. They’re our rival.”
Green Hope used an 11-0 run to start the second quarter to open a 31-21 halftime advantage. Hegeman hit two free throws for a 52-45 lead with 2:10 left to hold off. Alex Clinkscales led the Falcons with 13 points.
Panther Creek rallied behind Juan Munoz’s 3-point field goal and two free throws in the final 1:37. Munoz led the Catamounts with 18 points and Tyler Smith added 12.