Big efforts from unlikely heroes were the story at the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference basketball tournament championships at Panther Creek High.
Green Hope’s girls held off Panther Creek 50-40 thanks to a big night from junior Rachel Argrabright, and Apex’s boys handed Cary its first loss of the season 80-69 as junior Eric Fox led the way.
For both teams, it was their first conference tournament title since 2012 (the 2014 and 2015 titles were not played).
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On a night where Cary had two players (senior Cory Gensler, junior Donte Tatum) who may one day rank first and second in career scoring, and Apex has its all-time leading scorer (Ian Boyd), Fox stole the show early.
Fox made an immediate impact, scoring 10 points in the first quarter alone to finish with 22 points and 10 rebounds, both game-highs. He hit three 3-pointers in the first half as the Cougars hit eight total to lead 38-32.
“I knew they’d be focused on Ian, so I knew I would have some open shots. And I did my thing,” Fox said.
While Fox was hot for Apex (20-7), the 2-seed, in the first half, Colin Molden (19 points, five assists) came alive in the second half. Boyd had 20 points.
“Our scorekeeper had us for no turnovers in the first half and three in the second half. (Molden) is a great point guard. He takes care of it and makes great decisions,” Apex coach David Neal said.
Cary (26-1), the 1-seed, got 23 points from Tatum and 17 from Gensler. Jay Hicks added 12.
“I thought the shots we took offensively were consistent with the ones we’ve taken most of the year,” Cary coach Allan Gustafson said. “This loss doesn’t at all, in the least, take away from anything we’ve done this year. I think it was more about Apex (playing well) than Cary.”
On some nights, Argabright is Green Hope’s fourth scoring option. But in a championship battle against N.C. Highway 55 rival Panther Creek (18-9), the 4-seed, Argabright had to lead the way.
She made five 3-pointers for Green Hope (23-4), the 2-seed, to help offset an off-night for the team offensively. Only Nia Washington (11 points, seven rebounds) joined Argabright in double-figures.
“The post, when they got rebounds, they did a good job looking outside,” Argabright said. “The point guard did really well passing and so did other players.”
Panther Creek led 21-19 at halftime, but was held to just three points in the third quarter. The Catamounts were led by Gabby Rogers (10 points), Jasmine McKoy and Cassie Zietlow (nine points each).
“Green Hope came out and pushed the tempo on us in the third quarter,” Panther Creek coach Danielle Moore said. “That third quarter drought hurt us. Against a team like Green Hope, you’ve got to play all four quarters – you can’t take a quarter off.”
It is Green Hope’s first tournament title since the 2011-12 season, while Panther Creek was making its first appearance in the title game.