Garner Cleveland: Sports

Wake Christian, Cary Academy basketball teams split

Wake Christian’s Jon Kirkpatrick (23) drives for a layup during the Wake Christian Academy girls' basketball game at Cary Academy on Tuesday, January 20, 2015. Wake Christian won the game 68-55.
Wake Christian’s Jon Kirkpatrick (23) drives for a layup during the Wake Christian Academy girls' basketball game at Cary Academy on Tuesday, January 20, 2015. Wake Christian won the game 68-55.

Wake Christian’s boys and Cary Academy’s girls each took a small step forward in the Triangle Independent Schools Athletic Conference on Tuesday night with conference wins.

Behind Rob Whitfield’s 33 points, the Bulldogs held off the Chargers 68-55 in the boys’ game, while Lauren Callihan and Szu-In Lim combined for 31 points as Cary Academy ran away from Wake Christian 37-23 in the girls game.

Wake Christian’s boys improved to 2-0 in the TISAC as the Bulldogs chase perennial power Ravenscroft and a berth in the state tournament.

A young but improving Cary Academy girls’ team is 2-1 in the TISAC after limping to a 4-8 non-conference record.

Whitfield leads Bulldog boys

Turning point: After a 13-4 run gave Cary Academy a 15-14 first-quarter lead, Wake Christian scored on 11 of its 12 possessions in the second quarter to take control of the game. The Bulldogs (12-5) missed only two shots but still scored on both of those possessions after grabbing offensive rebounds. Whitfield closed out the 25-point quarter with a pair of 3-pointers in the final 41 seconds.

“That was a good quarter,” Wake Christian coach Chris Underwood said. “We had 33 in a quarter earlier this year where we were really clicking. But this one was one of our best offensive quarters of the season. But more importantly, we held them to eight points.”

Highlight reel: Whitfield put an exclamation point on his night with a steal and a one-handed, fastbreak dunk with two minutes to play. Whitfield, a 6-foot-2 junior guard, is one of the Triangle’s best, and he showed why Tuesday. He made three 3-pointers, grabbed six rebounds and had six assists. Plus, he had two steals.

“It’s tough when we tried to trap him, and he still manages to score,” Cary Academy coach Mindaugas Timinskas said. “We have two guys on him, but it’s tough. We seemed to manage him OK to a certain point, but he stepped up when he needed to and scored some crucial baskets to keep us at arm’s length.”

Whitfield played with his shooting hand taped after a fall in a game Saturday. But he hardly showed any ill-effects, playing 32 minutes and often guarding the Chargers’ best offensive player.

“It’s a very mild sprain,” Underwood said. “It didn’t seem to bother him. He played well and had a good night.”

Unsung hero: Tylor Moore scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half as Cary Academy (7-11, 0-2 TISAC) tried to keep it close. He scored nine consecutive points for the Chargers to cut the lead to 52-44 early in the third quarter.

The Bulldogs’ Blake Buffaloe had nine of his 11 points in the first half but missed most of the second half with an apparent ankle injury.

“Blake is a key piece for us,” Underwood said. “When he went down in the second half, it took one of our better defenders away and it took someone who can hit a lot of shots around the rim away for us. It hurt, but we had a couple other guys step up and play some key minutes.”

Putting up numbers: Wake Christian shot an astounding 66 percent, hitting 28 of 42 shots from the field and six of eight from 3-point range. The 15 turnovers were too many for Underwood’s liking, but the shooting helped ease that pain.

“We had us shooting 66 percent, which is unbelievable,” Underwood said. “I’m happy with that.”

Cary Academy’s Sam Ingalls had a terrific night, hitting two 3s and scoring 19 points.

What worked: Defense helped the Chargers get back in the game. Trailing 48-28 with 3:20 left in the third, Cary Academy forced six turnovers and three missed shots in 11 Bulldog possessions as part of a 16-4 run.

Needs improvement: But Cary Academy then missed four 3s in a row as the Bulldogs pushed the lead back to 61-44.

“We probably took too many 3s there,” Timinskas said. “We were trying to get that lead all the way down, and they didn’t fall for us today, so it kinda kept us out of the game.”

Best quote: “We’re trying to find our way a little bit,” Timinskas said. “We have some young talent, but we’re still a little small, a little too skinny sometimes.”

Feeling the impact: Ravenscroft is the king of the TISAC, having won eight regular-season and tournament championships in a row. But the Bulldogs are hoping to knock off the Ravens this year.

“They’re you’re conference front-runner, until somebody beats them,” Underwood said. “I think we can contend for the conference championship.”

Cary Academy girls roll

Turning point: Hannah Izzell scored a driving basket and a 3-pointer to get Wake Christian within 13-12 early in the second quarter. But Cary Academy went on a 10-2 run to take command, holding the Bulldogs to 11 points in the final 17 minutes of the game.

Highlight reel: Sophomore Lauren Callihan was the catalyst to the second-quarter run, scoring eight of her 20 points in the final three minutes. She made two driving baskets, followed up a missed 3-pointer with a bucket and sank two free throws as Cary Academy led 23-14 into halftime.

Unsung hero: Wake Christian (0-14) is in a rebuilding year, often playing two or three freshmen at the same time. Freshmen Brandy Hampton and Annah Bishop started, while freshman Maggie Lucas finished well, scoring all four of her points and all four of her team’s points in the fourth quarter on two nice jump shots.

What worked: The Chargers’ guard tandem of Callihan and Lim were excellent Tuesday. With Lim’s 11 points, they scored all but six of their team’s points and all but one in the second half. And the good news for Cary Academy coach Mike Zeillmann. Lim is a junior and Callihan a sophomore.

“Our keys are Lim and Callihan,” Zeillmann said. “We did a good job of getting them the ball today in open spots. … They’re two of the better guards in the league. When we pass it well to those guys, they’re pretty tough. And they play good defense. We need those two to be consistent, and if we can get one of our other three to six, eight (points), we’ll hang in there with people.”

Callihan was such an offensive force that Bulldogs coach Danny Hensley threw a box-and-one on her on one possession.

Needs improvement: Wake Christian ran its half-court offense well enough but missed too many open shots. The Bulldogs made 10 of 34 shots from the floor and weren’t much better from the free-throw line, making only 2 of 8.

Cary Academy had its struggles shooting, too, hitting 14 of 44 shots and 3 for 17 from 3-point range.

Best quote: “I’ve never had a team this inexperienced – ever,” Zeillmann said. “It’s taken awhile for them to get used to what they need to work on. Just great kids, and it’s been an enjoyable year.”

The Chargers have two seniors in their rotation, but both Zoe Dohm and Renee Reynolds are in their first year of playing basketball at this level. And there are plenty of sophomores and freshmen playing for Cary Academy.

Feeling the impact: Cary Academy is 2-1 in the TISAC with an important game against North Raleigh Christian Academy next week. “That will be a key game for us,” Zeillmann said. “Ravenscroft is a powerhouse, but we have a chance – if we play up to our potential – to finish up in the top half of league. That’s our goal.

“We’re really, really improving. The girls have stayed resilient and have improved everything.”