In a rematch of a tough loss for North Raleigh Christian Academy (15-9, 3-3) earlier this season, Wake Christian (13-7, 3-2) squeaked out a tight 54-52 win. Colton Lee heaved up a prayer in the final seconds, but his three-pointer fell short in heartbreaking fashion.
Similar to the first matchup, Wake Christian’s Rob Whitfield took over from outside while Isaiah Moore controlled the paint. Whitfield's 20 points and four assists were key, but Moore finished with a double-double at 19 points and 11 assists down low.
"Rob [Whitfield] is everything to us as far as guard play," Wake Christian coach Chris Underwood said. "His leadership really shined through tonight. ... He didn't get frustrated when he missed early shots and led us to a win late.
"In the paint, I thought this was Isaiah [Moore]'s best game tonight. He was aggressive and showed he wanted it. ... His athleticism for a smaller big guy was huge. He can jump out of the gym."
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Whitfield's leadership really shined through late in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs depended on Whitfield in the fourth, as he went 5-of-6 from the charity stripe to give them a 52-50 edge with 1:09 left on the clock.
After both teams traded off the lead through the first half, Wake Christian never trailed in the second. But on the next possession, North Raleigh’s Nick Johnson—who totaled 13 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks—tied the game at 52.
In the end, it was Whitfield who had the last laugh. The guard slashed to the basket and put up a tough floater to take a 54-52 lead. Lee—who had gone 2-of-2 from behind the arc up in the second half up to that point—missed a three-pointer as the buzzer sounded.
The win gave the Bulldogs a season sweep over NRCA, but meant so much more for Underwood.
"This puts us at second in the conference and 13-7 overall," he said. "With three games to go, this was extremely important to get back into it. But with the standings so close, we can't let up now."
Earlier in the evening, the NRCA girls team pulled off a come-from-behind 31-28 win over Wake Christian. The Knights were led by Rachel Weyne, who finished with 18 points, six rebounds and four assists.
"[Weyne] played very well for us tonight," NRCA coach Paige Woodard said. "She started at the point, but we were struggling in the post so I put her in the post. ... She took advantage of every opportunity."
The key to the turnaround for the Knights was a full-court defense that shut down the Bulldogs offensively. Jamila Jacobs hauled in nine rebounds while Christa Dutton led NRCA with three steals. Elizabeth Hare, who led the Bulldogs with eight points, was held to no points in the second half.
Despite sloppy play from his team, Wake Christian coach Danny Hensley believes his young team will grow from the loss.
"When you just have four freshman, the team tends to rush under pressure," Hensley said. "Mistakes get corrected after they see it happen, but they don't have a lot of game experience. These are teaching moments for our team."