Friday night’s showdown between the Panther Creek and Green Hope basketball teams had a lot more than just the “Fight for 55” rivalry trophy, which moves back and forth between the schools in a year-long competition, on the line. All four teams came into the night with a combined 23-5 record, fighting for a spot atop the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference standings.
Both games came down to the wire, with the Green Hope girls running away in the fourth quarter to win 51-43. Juan Munoz lead the way in the second game of the night, knocking down six 3-pointers as the Catamounts brought an end to the Falcons’ 8-0 start to the season, winning 61-57 in overtime.
It wasn’t until 3:59 remaining in the fourth quarter that Green Hope took its first lead of the game, as Nia Washington found Kelly Fitzgerald under the basket to give the Falcons a 45-43 lead.
Calm under pressure, Fitzgerald, Washington and Rachel Argabright combined to go 6 for 8 from the free throw line in the final minute of play, negating Panther Creek’s attempt of retaking the lead.
“Right after school today, I made them all come in and shoot 50 free throws,” Green Hope coach Mike Robinson chuckled. “I don’t know if that worked or not.”
The Catamounts came out firing, outscoring the Falcons 30-25 to open the game, with Jasmine McKoy’s fade away 3-pointer resulting in a four-point play capping off Panther Creek’s hot run.
Green Hope held Panther Creek to only 13 points in the second half, with strong efforts on the offensive glass keeping a plethora of the Falcons’ possessions alive.
Fitzgerald scored 13 of her 24 points in second half, leading all scorers.
“We look to (Fitzgerald) to do a lot of big things,” Robinson said. “Big players step up in big games.”
Coach Danielle Moore, whose squad has dropped two straight after a 6-0 start, cites finishing as a crucial point of emphasis for the Catamounts moving forward.
“We have to learn how to put four quarters together, against a team like Green Hope you have to play buzzer-to-buzzer,” Moore said.
Washington finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds and Allie Winiecki added on eight points for the Falcons.
Panther Creek was led by McKoy (11 points, four rebounds), Shotomei Greaux (nine points) and Gabby Rogers (seven points, five rebounds).
After having a rocky start to open the season, the Catamounts found their groove in the most crucial of games, defeating conference rival and previously undefeated Green Hope 61-57 in overtime.
“As a senior, there was definitely extra motivation, we all wanted to give Green Hope that first loss,” Longwood recruit Juan Munoz said.
Munoz poured in 25 points, but it was the likes of unsung heroes Riley Adams and role players Matt Butler and Gerrard Bennett who stepped up in crunch time.
Tied up 51-51 and with all the Falcons’ defensive focus on Munoz, Adams evaded his way through the lane and made the go-ahead layup – his first field goal of the night.
“(Adams) has had his ups and downs all season, but I knew when it mattered that he was going to step up,” Panther Creek coach Shawan Robinson said.
Green Hope’s Will Harkins responded in a clutch manner of his own, nailing two free throws with 5.7 seconds to go that sent the game to overtime.
In OT, Bennett, Adams and Butler – Butler barely saw the floor in regulation – all hit free throws as Panther Creek outscored Green Hope 8-4 in the extra period. Adams made the final free throw of the game, one that gave the Catamounts a crucial four-point advantage.
Green Hope was led by Harkins (15 points, nine rebounds, six assists) and Drew Hegeman (15 points, six rebounds) and Alex Clinkscales (nine points, three rebounds).
Along with the lights out shooting night from Munoz, Panther Creek also saw Tyler Smith earn a double-double, racking up 15 points, 10 boards and an electrifying putback dunk in the second quarter.