The senior night programs at Cary High asked the honored class of 2016 players questions like who their favorite bands were, who’d they like to thank and what their major dislikes were.
They had the same answer to that last one – “losing.”
The undefeated Imps have been allergic to anything but winning this season, and the team claimed another win on Friday, 61-36 against visiting Green Hope in front of a crowd so packed that more than 100 fans had to stand along the baselines.
It’s the school’s first conference title in boys basketball since the 1999 season. The Imps had already clinched a share, but now they won’t have to share it with anyone.
“We feel very, very proud and happy that we accomplished that,” said junior Donte Tatum. “We didn’t want to see us lose tonight.”
In the girls’ game, Green Hope held off a pesky Cary team 51-39.
The last conference title for Cary (22-0, 14-0) was a co-title in 1999. One of the mantras that emerged this year was putting “a ball on the wall,” alluding to a Kelly green banner in Charlie Adams Gymnasium that shows the different conference championships in boys basketball.
Each championship year is noted with a white basketball with the year in the middle.
After some close calls and runner-up finishes since the last title, a new basketball, one inscribed with “16,” is needed.
The Imps started three seniors who don’t normally – Phil King (who usually comes off the bench), Isaiah Gibbons and Sean Segre – and led 23-17 at halftime.
But Cary, powered by Tatum (25 points) – who was pelted by glow sticks tossed by the Cary student section onto the court during the starting lineups – and Cory Gensler (15), outscored Green Hope 22-6 in the third quarter.
“I told Kyle (Gensler), Darrion (Burnett) and Donte over on the bench while the seniors were going out for the tip ‘Don’t you let these seniors lose tonight. Don’t let them lose. Don’t let them lose,’” Cary coach Allan Gustafson said. “And they didn’t.”
Green Hope (14-8, 7-7) was led by Drew Hegeman’s eight points.
“We couldn’t stop them in transition,” Green Hope coach John Green said. “They just score in bunches. It could go from a four-point game to a 15-point game in the blink of an eye if you miss two buckets and a turnover. But I’m proud of the way we hung in there. For two and a half quarters, we played with them, and then the wheels feel off a little bit.”
Records meant little in the girls game. Green Hope (18-4, 12-2), sitting in second place, had to fight to avoid an upset to seventh-place Cary. Falcons freshman Nia Washington (10 points) got hot in the fourth quarter to pull away.
The Falcons got 12 points each from Allie Winiecki and Rachel Argabright and 10 more from Kelly Fitzgerald.
“We had to step it up more, drive to the basket to get fouls instead of shooting (outside shots),” Washington said. “We played a little slow in the beginning and just needed to keep on fighting and not give up.”
Cary (5-17, 4-10), which had no seniors on senior night, led 22-18 at halftime and were tied 32-all going into the fourth. Megan Cannady had 10 points.
“That’s kind of been the struggle this year – we’ve played in spurts,” Cary coach Pat Daly said. “Just a couple of mental breadowns late really changed the momentum of the game.”