The Green Hope Falcons boys and girls swept visiting Panther Creek on Friday, and two seniors led the way, appropriately on Senior Night.
Will Harkins scored a school-record 32 points to lead the Falcons to a 83-72 win, while Kelly Fitzgerald paced the girls with 20 points in a 51-43 victory.
Both teams improved their standing in the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference, with just two weeks left in the regular season. The Falcons girls and boys currently have identical records, 16-3 overall and 9-2 in the conference.
“It was Senior Night, lots of energy, and I just came out ready to play,” said Harkins, who came out of the gate with 14 first-quarter points, as the Falcons earned the season sweep over Panther Creek.
Green Hope coach John Green was very happy with his 6-foot guard.
“It’s not just the scoring we love about Will,” Green said. “Every night Will has to check the best player on the floor, and he expects it. He has to box out, take charges, run point on occasion, and even guard the center at times. Will does it all for us and leaves it on the floor every night.”
The Green Hope boys led wire-to-wire, but in the girls game, the Falcons held off a spirited comeback attempt by the feisty Catamounts (13-7, 8-4), who clawed back down 22 points to cut the Falcon lead to just three with 1:50 remaining.
Fitzgerald nailed a beautiful scoop shot with Panther Creek down 46-43, and then the Davidson College-bound guard delivered again to put the game out of reach.
“The last couple of minutes we got back to the way we started, being aggressive and attacking the rim,” said Fitzgerald, whose Falcons led 30-15 at the half and 40-18 midway through the third period.
The season has been played at a different pace for Green Hope than last year, when the Falcons reached the second round of the playoffs. Green Hope coach John Green said that the 2016 team preferred to operate in a more methodical way, but this year’s group likes to get out and run.
Harkins was aggressive from the outset against the Catamounts, and his teammates followed suit, filling the lanes and moving the ball upcourt quickly.
“I was afraid tonight that when we jumped out early it may have been because of the emotion of Senior Night, but we held that effort and intensity throughout” Green said. “I was proud of the way we stayed composed when (the Catamounts) would push us in transition.”
The Falcons have been involved in some close games this year, including a 63-60 victory over current SWAC leader Apex, a 47-45 loss to Cary, and a 65-61 triumph over Middle Creek.
“The conference is really jumbled, it’s deep, and at any point in time you could get beat by anyone,” Green said. “You can’t take a night off, because you could go from first to fourth just like that.”
Green also praised the play of senior Josh McVeigh, who transferred from Panther Creek. The 6-7 center had six points Friday, but added over 10 rebounds. Green said McVeigh has battled injuries this year, but his rim protection was a huge boost for the Falcons.
The Falcons will play the rest of their regular season games on the road, while Panther Creek (11-8, 7-5) will play 3 of its last 4 at home against teams they have previously beaten.
Justin McKoy led the Catamounts with 24 points.
Green Hope coach Mike Robinson praised his seniors for holding the team together. The Falcons are tied with Apex and Cary for first place in the SWAC.
“Tonight the girls kept their composure because we knew Panther Creek would make a run,” said Robinson, whose team made six three pointers in the first half. “We have three big games next week.”
The Falcons play both Apex and Cary.
“This senior leadership is the best it’s been my four years here,” said Fitzgerald. “We get along, have great chemistry, and have a lot of respect for each other. We can say things to each other that other teams might not be able to, but we always take it as constructive criticism and use it for the better.”
The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak for the Catamounts, who had defeated Green Hope 64-61 earlier in the season.
“This game was like our season, we started out 0-4 but have battled back and have started to gel more,” said Panther Creek coach Danielle Moore. “We lost 85 percent of our scoring from last year, and are young, starting a freshman, a sophomore, and a junior.”
Zanah Boyd (17 points) and Kalaya Hall (11) led the Catamounts Friday.