East Chapel Hill played without leading scorer Carter Collins on Friday night and the Wildcats still came away with a 62-52 win over Riverside to remain unbeaten in the PAC-6 Conference.
East Chapel Hill coach Ray Hartsfield said he was happy with the way his team played without Collins in the lineup. Collins was a brace on his leg prior to the game but removed it while he sat on the bench during the game.
“That was a big win for our team,” Hartsfield said. “We want our kids to understand and expect that that can happen to anyone. We’re not going to fold in the tents if somebody goes down. I am really proud of how they embraced it. And they came out to compete whether one guy is missing or two guys are missing.”
Jonathan Runyambo stepped into the primary scoring role for East Chapel Hill (14-4, 6-0) as he led the way with a season-high 18 points. The Wildcats also got double-figure scoring efforts from Justin Tucker, who had 14, and Kevin Gilland with 10.
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“I had to fill in the gap with Carter out and also get more guys involved scoring,” Runyambo said. “It worked for us. We definitely needed this win. With Carter out, everybody’s got to step up.”
Riverside which trailed 41-39 going into the final period, was led by A.J. Davis’ 15 points and 12 from Isaiah Reddish, who finished with 10. Andrew Freeman added 10 for the Pirates, who fell to 9-6 overall and 2-3 in the league.
“It makes the rest of the conference season more important,” Riverside coach Brian Strickland said.
East Chapel Hill seized control of the game in the final period by crashing the offensive boards and converting a pair of three-point plays.
After Runyambo scored with 4.7 seconds left in the third quarter, the Wildcats continued their run into the fourth quarter on a Gilland follow shot and a backdoor cut by Nick Decapite, who finished with eight points. Two possessions later, he gave the Wildcats a 50-43 lead after a bucket and foul that led to three points.
The closest Riverside got the rest of the way was down four points.
First, Freeman hit a jumper to the left of the lane by Freeman with about two minutes to play. But Tucker came back with a three-point play at the other end to restore the Wildcats’ seven-point margin with 1:15 to play.
Then Deshone Hicks, who finished with nine points on three 3s, hit a shot from behind the arc to make it 56-52 with 52 seconds left. East Chapel Hill hit all six of its free throw attempts in the remaining time to take the 10-point win.
“We weren’t efficient defensively,” Strickland said. “They took advantage of our mistakes. We absolutely did not take care of the ball in the first half. We cut down on the turnovers in the second half.”
In the girls’ game, Riverside used a stifling first-half defense to run out to a 17-2 halftime lead. The Pirates held East Chapel Hill scoreless in the second period, outscoring the Wildcats 13-0.
It was much closer in the second half but East Chapel Hill was too far behind to cut into Riverside’s lead.
Abira Reddish led Riverside with 14 points, while Ladasia Jones and Aijah Perry added 11 points each. East Chapel Hill had balanced scoring but no one in double figures as Alex Mauney had six to lead the Wildcats.