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The Community Christian School varsity boys basketball team never recovered from a woeful start and bowed 63-45 to Friendship Christian of Raleigh on Monday evening in the opening game of the MLK Day Classic tripleheader in the Greenfield School gym.
“That was not us,” insisted first-year head coach Kenneth Atkinson after his Cyclones, front-runners in the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A/2-A Coastal Independents Conference, lost for the seventh time this season to a nonconference foe and fell to 12-8.
“We are all right in the conference,” Atkinson added, “but these nonconference games are killing us.”
CCS returns to conference play Thursday at Halifax Academy.
Friendship, finding it tough in its first year as an NCISAA member (1-4 in the Coastal Plain Independents Conference), improved to 9-5.
The Cyclones selfishly came out firing from the perimeter and beyond, missing their first eight shots. Friendship, committed to the team concept, bolted to a 9-1 margin and never trailed.
“We are trying to get five guys working as one,” said pleased Falcons head coach Evan Brondyke. “We are trying to work through some things. But this was a big win for us.”
Both teams started as if they were anything but excited about playing on a neutral court on a holiday Monday.
“It was an early game, it was Monday and we started out a little slow,” Brondyke agreed. “Once we got into the second half, it was a lot better. We tried to pick up the tempo in the second half and that worked for us.”
The Falcons carried a 13-8 margin into the second quarter. CCS, behind 6-foot-3 junior Jimmy Forte, crept as close as 15-14 before Friendship answered with field goals from seniors Caleb Soemer and Chase Gunter.
A 3-pointer from freshman Eli Eger enabled the Cyclones to trim the deficit to 24-23 to open the second half.
But Friendship, benefiting from excellent teamwork, took command with an 11-0 tear. Gunter started the run with a 3-pointer and 2-point basket; senior Josh Lucas connected on a reverse layup; and sophomore M.J. Martin swished both of his field goals. Friendship’s cushion reached 23 points in the final quarter.
The Falcons nailed 24-of-55 shots from the floor for 44-percent accuracy and emerged with a 41-40 rebounding edge. Friendship’s ballhawking influenced 24 CCS turnovers. The Cyclones hit just 16-of-57 attempts from the floor for 28 percent.
“It was ugly,” Atkinson assured. “We were not into the game and the guys kept beating themselves up. I kept telling them we were not out of the game — we had three 3-point shooters.
“They were playing man-to-man defense and there’s no way they should have been able to stop all three — Forte, (junior Christian) McFarland and Eger. We didn’t set any picks; we ran the play we wanted one time. We were out of it in the first half.”
Forte was slowed by an ankle injury and CCS was without 6-8 freshman Eric Wynn (week-to-week academic issues). Jeremiah Williams decided to play for the junior varsity.
Forte still managed 26 points and eight rebounds. Eger added 10 points and nine rebounds. McFarland claimed seven rebounds.
Friendship’s Brondyke was familiar with Forte because he played for Wilson Christian Academy last season — when Friendship competed in the North Carolina Christian School Association 2-A East Region with the Chargers.
“He’s a great player and we respected that,” Brondyke expressed of Forte. “Our focus was on him all the time. We were trying to deny him the ball. If they were going to beat us, we wanted it to be someone else.”
Gunter’s 20 points paced the Falcons, while 6-3 junior Ty Green stuffed in 11. Jake Haufler, a 6-3 senior, claimed 13 rebounds — including 12 in the first half. Friendship wound up with 13 turnovers.
FRIENDSHIP CHRISTIAN (63)
Jones, Martin 6, Huskey 2, Brown 6, Gunter 20, Haulfler 7, Green 13, Perry, Harris, Soemer 3, Dean, Lucas 6, Croom, McGee.
COMMUNITY CHRISTIAN (45)
Forte 26, McFarland 4, Piccolo 3, Eger 10, Moran, Manning 2, Lane, Fate.
Score by quarters:
Friendship 13 11 20 19 — 63
CCS 8 12 12 13 — 45