CARY — The sequel to the Cleveland and Panther Creek basketball matchups featured a pair of unforeseen twists.
When the Cleveland boys hosted the Catamounts on Nov. 25 they were dismantled, 73-38. On Friday night at Panther Creek, the 2-4 Rams held a second half lead, trailed by just five with the ball late in the game and took the 6-0 Catamounts right down to the wire in a 68-61 Panther Creek win.
In the other subplot, the Cleveland girls (1-6) held a fourth quarter lead before falling by just four points in the teams’ first meeting, but on Friday trailed by as many as 20 in the fourth quarter before losing 45-33 to the 5-2 Catamounts.
“For some reason, last time I don’t think we were really ready to play,” Cleveland boys coach John Jacobs said. “I talked to them about what happened last time and what I expected them to do. I think they were focused on not letting it happen again and I think they gave a lot more effort tonight.”
“I think they played better and we didn’t play as well,” said Rams girls coach Chris Danehower, speaking from the opposite perspective. “For whatever reason we didn’t bring our best game tonight.”
Every time the Cleveland boys made a move on Friday, Panther Creek’s Gaqwez Hudson was there to answer the bell. After the Rams’ Chase Jackson scored on a fast break to trim the Catamount lead to just 40-38 with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Hudson nailed a three-pointer that launched a 19-9 run that spilled into the fourth quarter.
After a pair of early buckets the Cleveland girls went ice cold for a large chunk of the first half and saw Panther Creek pull away before halftime. The Rams went over 10 minutes without a field goal and were outscored 17-2 during that time.
“A lot of it was because of their disruption of our offense we weren’t able to come down and get the shots that we want. We weren’t taking great shots,” Danehower said.
The free throw line was a hostile place to be for the Cleveland girls. The Rams shot just 12-for-31 from the stripe including 1-for-11 in the second quarter. Cleveland missed 19 free throws in a game it lost by 12 points.
“We had our chancesand just didn’t make them. I don’t know what to do about that. We practice them all the time,” Danehower said.
Panther Creek made good on nine of 15 attempts from the line.
It was a different line of paint that spelled a difference in the boys’ game. Panther Creek drained seven three-pointers to Cleveland’s one – which came on the final basket of the game with 26 seconds remaining – to allow the Catamounts to outscore the Rams 21-3 from behind the arc.
Although the 3A Rams and 4A Catamounts are not in the same conference, a scheduling whim had them square off twice in 12 days early in the season. Both Cleveland coaches spoke of the advantage of such a challenge.
“It’s the youngest team I’ve ever coached but yet we’re playing the toughest schedule,” Danehower said. “So it’s not a surprise that we’re struggling a little bit but hopefully once we get into our conference that will help us and pay off for us.”
“The goal ultimately is getting ready for the conference,” Jacobs said. “I don’t mind playing against better competition. It sort of gives you a judge of where you’re at.”
Cleveland’s Bobby Stenborg led all scorers on the night with 25 points while running mate Jackson chipped in 18. Jackson entered the contest averaging 9.2 points per outing.
Sophomore Miranda Hinton paced the Cleveland girls with 14 points.