Justin Tucker hit the 3-pointers and Clay Watkins finished a pair of 3-point plays to lead East Chapel Hill to a 52-45 win over Hillside on Friday night as the Wildcats remained unbeaten in the PAC-6 Conference.
Tucker finished with 15 points, including three 3-pointers to lead the Wildcats. Watkins added 11, including six points in the fourth quarter.
East Chapel Hill coach Ray Hartsfield called it a character-building win.
“We needed that,” Hartsfield said. “It’s important for us to defend our home court.”
But it wasn’t an easy win for East Chapel Hill (15-4, 7-0) as they had to rally from a five-point deficit early in the fourth quarter. And they did it without leading scorer Carter Collins, who missed his second straight game with a leg injury.
With the game tied at 39-39 going into the final eight minutes, Hillside scored a pair of quick baskets to go up 44-39. Xavier Young hit a jumper and Damon Sanders popped a 3 from the top of the key. But those were the last points for Hillside until Derrick Wiley, who led with 10 points, made one of two free throws with 12 seconds left in the game. By that time, East Chapel Hill had forged out to an eight-point lead after going on a 13-0 run.
Hillside coach Thurman Jordan said he was disappointed that his team couldn’t hold on to the lead.
“We’ve been playing a lot of close games lately and we doing the things we need to do to win but we got away from those things tonight,” Jordan said. “Rebounding, free throws and defense kind of got away from us. It would have been a good win for us but now we’ve got to pick our heads up and move on.”
The Wildcats began their comeback at the free throw line as Jonathan Runyambo hit a pair from the line. Then Watkins split a pair to cut Hillside’s lead to 44-42 before scoring again on the Wildcats’ next possession with a three-point play to push East Chapel Hill into the lead 45-44 with 3:07 left.
East Chapel Hill hit 7 of 9 free throws in the final quarter and was 10 of 13 in the game.
“We executed better in the fourth quarter,” Watkins said. “We were able to run our sets and got some stops on the defensive end.”
Hillside (11-7, 2-4) struggled with a pair of turnovers and then missed their final seven shots from the field. The only point the Hornets scored in the final six minutes of the game came at the line.
Hillside had some success early in the against East Chapel Hill’s 2-3 zone with six 3s, but four of them came in the first half.
In the girls’ game, Hillside had no trouble with the Wildcats as they won 54-22.
Elisia Grissett led Hillside with 19 points, while Jakelbi Lewis finished with 11.
T.J. Johnson led East Chapel Hill with 16 points as she reached the 1,000-point plateau in her Wildcat career.