Green Hope’s girls preserved a lead and the boys rallied from a deficit to take home both Southwest Wake Athletic Conference basketball tournament titles Friday night at Apex Friendship.
The Falcons’ girls, the regular-season conference champions, held off third-seeded Holly Springs 50-49 in a game that went down to the final seconds. Green Hope and Holly Springs have won every conference tournament that has been played (there was no tournament in 2014 and 2015 due to snow and ice) since 2010.
“It’s always a battle (with Holly Springs). And I think it’s great for girls basketball,” Green Hope coach Mike Robinson said.
In another 1-vs-3 game, Green Hope’s boys unseated conference champ Cary 72-61 to win their second tournament title in the last three tries (Apex won in 2016, Green Hope in 2013).
The win vaults Green Hope to the top of the wild-card teams that make the playoffs. The Falcons will be seeded lower than conference champions but higher than wild card teams that didn’t win the tournament.
Green Hope scored just 16 second-half points but held on in the final seconds as Holly Springs failed to get a shot off after the Falcons whittled five seconds off the clock by using their fouls to give.
The victory came after a heart-pounding last few minutes for the Falcons, who were flummoxed by Holly Springs’ late 2-2-1 fullcourt press.
Green Hope has won five of the last six tournaments played: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2016 and 2017.
Green Hope was led by Kelly Fitzgerald’s 19 points and six assists. Nia Washington had a double-double: 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Holly Springs’ Kiana Carter had 16 points to lead the Golden Hawks. Samantha Weaver had 12 with 11 rebounds and Jada Kearney had 10 points.
“We had so many opportunities to make easy baskets. ... We played great defense, we just couldn’t finish at the end,” Holly Springs girls coach Peace Easton said.
Cary led 35-29 at halftime and was red-hot from 3, making 8 of its first 11 and 9 of 14 by intermission. But as the Imps started to struggle from outside (finishing the game 11 of 25 for a still-above-average 44 percent), Green Hope chipped away and scored 43 second-half points.
“We hoped they couldn’t shoot that well the whole game,” Green Hope coach John Green said. “Our defense tightened up a little bit and then, offensively, we didn’t settle for the 3.”
Cary had foul trouble, which allowed Green Hope to attack the rim. Green Hope made more 2-pointers (27 of 45) than Cary attempted (10 of 20).
The Falcons’ Alex Clinkscales scored a game-high 24 points on 10 of 15 shooting. Will Harkins added 15 points with five rebounds and five assists.
Cary’s Jeff Fortuny scored 21 points thanks to 4 of 9 shooting from 3. Kyle Gensler had 15, all from 3 (5 of 7) and Donte Tatum had 13 points. Phillip Blackley had a game-high seven assists to go with six rebounds.
Cary coach Allan Gustafson reminded his team that last year’s team also lost in the conference tournament final. That group went to the 4A championship game.
“I don’t want them to lose sight of the fact that we are the SWAC champions because of what we did in the regular season,” Gustafson said. “We just wanted to see if we went on a little run starting next week.”