The first basketball version of the “Fight for 55” was a draw.
Panther Creek’s girls handed Green Hope its first loss of the season, 54-51, and the Catamount boys nearly pulled off the upset sweep before the Falcons quieted the PC crowd with a 61-56 victory.
Both Green Hope teams came into the night ranked in The News & Observer top 25, but their three-mile rivals were up to the task Tuesday night.
Panther Creek (4-4, 3-1 Southwest Wake Athletic Conference) had a difficult first half. The Catamounts turned the ball over 15 times in the first 16 minutes and only scored four free throws in the second quarter, trailing No. 5 Green Hope 32-17 at halftime.
But coach Danielle Moore’s message got through in the locker room.
“She’s not much of a yeller,” senior Gabby Rogers said. “She just wants us to stay out of our head and get it together, so that’s what we tried to do. Halftime, we decided the turnovers have to stop. We had to get our heads in it, and third quarter, we came out and crushed it. We were not going to deal with defeat at all.”
Junior Zanah Boyd scored 10 of her game-high 19 points in the third, and the Catamounts knocked down three 3-pointers to close within one, 41-40, at the end of the third. PC scored six consecutive points to open the fourth, but Rachel Argabright (15 points) drilled a 3 with 2:20 to play to give Green Hope a 49-48 lead.
Green Hope (8-1, 3-1) missed five shots in the final two minutes, while Rogers, freshman Kennedy Heath (14 points) and sophomore Kalaya Hall (12) made two free throws each to seal the victory.
“Beating Green Hope is always great,” Moore said. “It’s a huge rivalry for us, so anytime we can beat Green Hope, we’ll take it.”
Nia Washington led Green Hope with 18 points but she was unable to get loose in the second half. After dominating the inside in the first half, Panther Creek limited her to three free throws and a 3 in the second.
“We tried to get it to her, and they did a good job of letting us get it to her,” Falcons coach Mike Robinson said. “They outplayed us in the second half. No ifs, ands or buts, they outplayed us. We had a good first half and they had a good second half.”
Green Hope played without all-conference guard Kelly Fitzgerald, who Robinson said will miss another week or two with a leg injury.
“We need to get back to the basics,” Robinson said. “Tomorrow, we’re going to do that. We’ll suit up again on Friday and see what happens.”
Panther Creek led by eight at halftime, using a 17-2 run to get the lead in its upset try against No. 12 Green Hope.
But the Falcons (7-1, 4-0) made their first five shots of the second half and went on a 13-4 run to surge ahead. Justin McKoy, who led all scorers with 24 points, hit a free throw to tie the game at 51-51 with 2:01 remaining, but Green Hope’s offense heated up again, scoring on its final five possessions – all driving or fastbreak layups.
Will Harkins (10 points) made two layups – one on a goaltending call on PC’s Justin Smalls – and Chuck Hills (13), Alex Clinkscales (10) and Connor Munz made one each as the Falcons closed the game on a 10-5 run.
Green Hope made 18 of 26 shots in the second half, including going 8-for-13 in the fourth – many on driving baskets.
“That was certainly focus,” Green Hope coach John Green said. “We were trying to attack the baseline of their zone a little bit. They’ve got some phenomenal players and they’re well-coached, but we were just trying to shoot the gaps of that zone every chance we could. We were trying to get to the rim before their shot-blockers could. We did a good job of attacking and not settling.”
Ryan Shaffer led the Falcons with 16 points.
Panther Creek (3-5, 1-3) shot 51.9 percent from the floor in the first half but cooled off early in the third.
“We just fell asleep at the wheel,” Catamounts coach Shawan Robinson said. “We emphasize that the first three minutes of the second half were going to be the most important three minutes, and we lost those three minutes. Being up eight, we’ve got to be better.”
PC missed five shots late in the game, including three 3-pointers. Riley Adams scored 13 points, with Tyler Smith adding 12.
“We’ve got to get over the hump,” Robinson said. “In all five (losses), we’ve lost by less than eight points. At some point, we’ve got to make winning plays, especially when it’s winning time.”