It didn’t come without moments of nervousness or the frustration of seeing a fourth quarter lead evaporate, but by night’s end the N.C. School of Science and Math boys’ basketball team secured a victory on the road Tuesday after beating rival Durham School of the Arts 50-46 in overtime.
“We were getting a little flustered, but then we all got together, put it all together, and made sure that we were picking each other up instead of putting each other down because of mistakes,” said senior guard Ryan Dickerson, who led NCSSM with 16 points.
Earlier in the evening, the DSA girls’ team snapped a four-game losing streak with a 44-33 victory over NCSSM thanks to strong performances by power forward Anaia Brewster and junior center Jordyn Burton.
Coach Ronald McDaniel’s DSA team had a lot to play for Tuesday. For one, the Bulldogs hadn’t won since Dec. 17, and they had a chance to end their woes against a rival opponent.
As it turned out, the Bulldogs played like a team willing to make the most off that opportunity.
Proving to be the more well-balanced, and defensively sound team, DSA (8-10, 2-3 Northern Carolina 2A) eventually wore down NCSSM (3-8, 2-3), which struggled to score when the ball wasn’t in the hands of guard Rachel Ruderman.
The two teams were tied 24-24 at halftime after Ruderman put up 19 in the opening half. But the Bulldogs’ ability to hone in on her in the second half proved to be the difference. With McDaniel having his players run a modified zone defense that put pressure on Ruderman after she had initially passed the ball, DSA held NCSSM scoreless in the third quarter.
On the other end of the floor, DSA capitalized by consistently feeding its post players inside as the duo of Brewster and Burton combined for 25 points.
“The game plan was just to rotate the ball to not just the low post, but to get it to the open man,” Brewster said. “We worked hard to make sure everybody had an opportunity to score.”
McDaniel sees the win as a step in the right direction for DSA, which already has won five more games than it did last year.
“With us being 2-3 in the conference, we’re right there with an opportunity to potentially make it to the state playoffs,” McDaniel said.
When NCSSM (8-5, 2-4) led by four points with just under a minute remaining in the fourth quarter, it appeared the visiting Unicorns would be victorious without an overtime period being needed.
DSA (7-6, 1-5) had other plans.
After a basket by senior guard Amauri Liles halved the deficit, the Bulldogs tied the game when junior small forward Noah Lea made a layup and was fouled following a NCSSM turnover. Lea had a chance to give his team the lead if he could have made a free throw, but he didn’t capitalize on the opportunity, and five extra minutes were needed to determine a winner.
NCSSM didn’t squander its second opportunity to beat a Northern Carolina 2A Conference opponent away from home.
Tightening up defensively, and proving themselves as capable at the charity stripe in the final minutes, the Unicorns got a second straight win after losing their three previous contests.
Trailing 46-43 with less than a minute left in overtime, DSA missed a 3-pointer, and NCSSM proceeded to close out the game at the free throw line.
According to NCSSM coach Chris Mayshack, his players were overjoyed about winning a tightly-contested rivalry game on the road.
“They’re jumping in the locker room. They’re excited” Mayshack said. “It’s good for them to fight through this. We’ve had a tough season so far, but we’ve been fighting through.”
Both teams went back-and-forth with each other in the first half, with DSA leading 20-18 at halftime. Senior guard Ian Jones was effective early on for the Bulldogs, scoring 12 of his team-best 16 points in the first half.
But as the game progressed, NCSSM utilized its size advantage, and outscored DSA 17-6 in the third quarter, winning the rebounding battle and consistently getting the ball down low to senior center D.J. Diabate, who scored 11 points, in doing so.
Still, DSA – which trailed by nine points after three quarters – showed they had one last run in them. The play of Liles and Lea, who combined to score 16 points, and a strong performance on defense by senior guard Wesley Pratt helped the Bulldogs nearly pull off the comeback.
“The guys just locked in, and they just ratcheted it up,” DSA coach Seth Gardner said. “I really got to credit them today.”