The Cary girls basketball team rallied back in a dramatic fashion against Southwest Wake Athletic Conference rival Panther Creek to win 43-41 after falling behind 29-15 at the halftime break.
Cary (4-13, 2-7) tightened up on defense after halftime, allowing Panther Creek (4-14, 1-8) just 12 points in the second half.
“We picked up our defensive intensity,” said Cary head coach Patrick Daly. “We were able to set up our half-court trap, and I thought our girls did a great job of just digging down and fighting, we were able to get a few turnovers, especially in the third quarter.”
Cary senior Brooke Anthony collected a jaw-dropping 21 rebounds in the win.
“I realized starting off, my shot wasn’t really falling down for me, and I wanted to help my team as best I could,” Anthony said. “Rebounds are the best way to do it, give the team second opportunities.”
Anthony’s put-back layup with 1:52 remaining in the fourth quarter gave Cary a 40-39 advantage, their first lead of the game.
With 15 seconds to go, Panther Creek had several chances to reclaim the lead they lost proceeding halftime.
Following a turnover with seven seconds remaining in the game, Panther Creek head coach Danielle Moore immediately instructed her girls to foul. Cary was unable to make either of their free throws, and a scrum for the rebound immediately followed. Moore signaled for a timeout, which was granted by the nearest official, assuming her team would have guaranteed possession with 4.4 seconds to go.
“(The call) was overturned by another referee, at that point they decided it was going to be a jump ball, and then it was going to be (Panther Creek) ball,” Moore said. “We called another (30-second timeout), they reconvened and then overturned that call and gave (Cary) the ball.”
“I’m still not sure the process behind all that, but that’s how it went down,” Moore said.
Immediately following the ensuing inbound play, Cary senior Camille Martin was sent to the free throw line for two shots following a swift foul from Panther Creek. After converting her first shot, Martin missed the second. Jasmine McKoy rebounded for Panther Creek, then flung a cross-court pass to Cassie Zietlow, whose 35-foot 3-pointer narrowly missed at the buzzer.
“I thought we did a great job with finishing,” Daly said. “We did a good job closing it out, it was close all the way to the wire.”
Panther Creek built up their first half lead using an aggressive full-court defense that forced Cary into committing 12 turnovers (23 for the night).
“Defensively, we had great pressure,” Moore said. “We played tough. It was some of the most intense defense we’ve played all year.”
Despite the defensive intensity, Panther Creek wasn’t able to capitalize in the second half due to a lights-out shooting night from Cary senior Meredith Courtney (19 points, 11 in the second half) and the rebounding effort from Anthony.
“With the season winding down, we realized this was our time, it’s now-or-never,” said Courtney. “At halftime we talked a lot about having the intensity to come back.”
The win gave Cary a new sense of confidence heading into their final stretch of games.
“There were three teams coming into tonight tied for sixth place in the conference, so that was our goal to take it one game at a time and get something going,” said Daly. “Maybe we can get a few upsets along the way, knock some people off.”
Cary has an opportunity to ride their momentum on a bigger stage as they take on Holly Springs (14-4, 7-2) this Friday.
Moore stressed consistency as the most important thing she’ll work on with her Panther Creek teams moving forward.
“We’ve got to be able to finish under pressure when it counts,” she said. “Defensively, offensively, we need to be consistent from the tip to the end of the game.”
Cassie Zietlow lead the Catamounts in scoring with 13 points.