Erwin’s Cape Fear Christian was able to keep it close the entirety of the NCISAA 1A boys basketball state championship game at Ravenscroft, but never led as Trinity Christian Fayetteville emerged victorious 74-66.
“Trinity just outplayed us, we didn’t come ready to play but it was a good game, good state playoff and good run for Cape Fear Christian Academy,” coach Dwight Miller said. “It’s my third year here and I’m honored to be here.”
The Eagles trailed by 10 at halftime, but a fourth quarter resurgence from UNC Charlotte recruit Quentin Jackson Jr. kept things interesting.
“That’s what I like about this team, they don’t give up, they don’t stop and they play until the end,” Miller said. “We just came up short today.”
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Jackson scored 12 of his 16 points in the final period, twice cutting the Crusaders’ lead down to five, but strong free throw shooting down the stretch kept the Eagles at bay.
Jackson – who also had seven rebounds and four assists – has spent time at several high schools including Middle Creek and Word of God, but has taken away a lot from his time in Cape Fear.
“By playing at Cape Fear, I learned how to play with my teammates more and trust them which has made me a better player, get more assists, widen my range and things like that,” Jackson said. “It was the last game for seniors, but everybody felt like it was their last game, so everybody played hard, everybody got in and just made an effort. Couldn’t give up in the last game of the season.”
Cape Fear Christian was led in scoring by Michael Melvin (21) and Zachary Boggs (18, four 3s).
Trinity Christian had eight players score, led by Mike Boykin (22 points, six rebounds, two assists, four 3s), Cameron Campbell (15 points, four rebounds, two assists, one 3) and Ethan Herring (nine points, seven rebounds).
One name not on that box score, though, was N.C. State’s Dennis Smith Jr., who tore his ACL last summer while being touted as the top-ranked point guard in the nation.
Trinity Christian coach Heath Vandevender said the team had its growing pains replacing Smith, but the championship trophy makes this season one of the most memorable he’s coached.
“We’ve been up and down all year, we lost Dennis Smith Jr. in July and I expected us to compete for a state championship with him, he’s not here and it took a long time for these other kids to learn roles, switch roles, through this whole process they grew up,” Vandevender said.
“Each team is different, each journey is different and this is our third (championship) and it’s the most special one with all the adversity and injuries. I’ve coached four 14 years and I’ve never had a season like this.”