In regulation, Apex and Green Hope’s girls basketball game was a coaching chess match on Friday night. But overtime was all about getting to the rim and finishing.
Apex kept its top spot in the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference by virtue of a 61-57 overtime win against Green Hope. The Cougars drove often in the final period, drawing contact and going to the free throw line where they hit 7 of 8 to close out the game.
The Falcons tried the same – and got uncontested layups at times – but too many of their tries rimmed out.
“I told them they played hard. They played with a lot of effort. I thought we made some clutch plays and they did too. It was a battle there at the end. It’s a shame to lose that one,” Green Hope John D’Agostin said. “It just came down to making plays.”
Green Hope’s first move was to use point guard Kelly Fitzgerald (17 points) to slice through the Apex defense. The Falcons (8-5, 4-2) spread the floor, which allowed Fitzgerald to drive into the lane and either make a shot or find an open teammate.
“We knew going into it they were a very solid shooting team, and if you let a solid shooting team get into a rhythm, you’re in for a long night,” Apex coach Isaac Bristol said. “(Fitzgerald) did it all for them. She’s a player. We had to do a better job defending her and keeping her out of the paint – just make it tougher for her to facilitate.”
Apex (11-4, 6-0) countered with better help defense to keep Fitzgerald from getting to those same spots. And it did so by switching up its lineup.
Tiffany Finley, a second-team all-conference player from a year ago, made her first appearance in the third quarter as Apex went to a taller look. On defense, she took a charge against Fitzgerald and then couldn’t miss on the offensive end.
“It took a lot (of patience) because I really don’t like sitting on the bench. I really had to take a look at myself and trust my coach,” Finley said.
After a few low-post Apex baskets, Green Hope went to a 2-3 zone and forced a few turnovers before Apex settled in and started finding holes.
“When they sat back in a zone and they tried to clog it up, we had to take advantage of that,” Bristol said. “I thought we did a great job of zone offense in the second half, being patient. A lot of times teams will see a zone and you get that fools’ gold and start jacking up 3s. But I thought we did a great job of working it around and not forcing it.”
Apex’s Mia Castagnero (nine rebounds) scored 14 of her game-high 20 points after the third quarter as Apex, which trailed for most of the game including 25-21 at halftime
Finley scored 12 points in limited duty, including an unexpected 3-pointer.
“It’s new to myself,” Finley said. “I’ve been trying them in practice and I finally got one in a game. I was like ‘this is my chance.’”
Green Hope led 57-54 in overtime by getting transition baskets. But when Apex switched back to a smaller lineup to keep up with the Falcons, Green Hope went cold despite getting close looks.
“A few things that have been a weakness for us is rebounding and taking care of the ball, and tonight we did a much better job of that,” D’Agostin said. “Even though we didn’t get the result tonight, we’ve made some improvements.”
Green Hope’s Brandi Mosser had 14 points (10 rebounds) while Rachel Argabright had nine.
Apex’s Elle Hepburn had 10 points and Kimberley Schuh had eight to go with 11 rebounds.