Near-Miss: O'Neal Outlasted by Highly-Ranked Foe
The homestanding O'Neal School boys' basketball team went shot-for-shot with highly-ranked Fayetteville Academy for 28 minutes on Tuesday.
The other four minutes belonged to the visitors, as Fayetteville Academy ended the game on a 12-3 run to win 66-56 in both teams' Cape Fear Independent Conference opener.
"Obviously we played our hearts out," said O'Neal coach Casey Coleman. "That was probably our best (game) of the year."
The game featured 10 lead changes and six ties, but it was a lead change that didn't happen that seemed to swing momentum Fayetteville Academy's way. Trailing 54-53, O'Neal (4-7, 0-1) missed a pair of free throws that could have given it a lead with 3:56 to play. The Eagles (13-4, 1-0), ranked third in the latest NCISAA 2A poll, responded by scoring the next 12 points unanswered, including making 8 of 11 free throws down the stretch.
Nevertheless, Fayetteville Academy coach Chip Bishop had nothing good to say about his team's performance after the game.
"They outplayed us tonight. They out-hustled us. They out-coached us," he said. "If we had lost that ballgame, I'd of said we deserved to lose it. They wanted it more. We just weren't as sharp as they were tonight, that's for sure."
Zack Richardson and Charles Smith combined to score 46 of the Eagles' 66 points, with Richardson posting a game-high 24 points while Smith finished with 22. Jide Lawal led O'Neal with 17 points, and John Schoemmell added 12 points.
Freshman forward Jacob Talbert scored 11 points in the first half for O'Neal but was slowed in the second half after taking a knee to the thigh.
"No question that took a lot out of us," Coleman said of the injury.
O'Neal trailed 19-17 at the end of the first quarter and took its first lead on a Schoemmell layup off a Talbert steal with 4:10 remaining before halftime. But Fayetteville Academy retook the lead on a James Dawson three-point play with 56 seconds remaining in the second quarter to take a 34-33 advantage into halftime.
The Eagles maintained that lead throughout the third quarter, but O'Neal made a spurt early in the fourth when Chris Payton scored a deuce and then assisted on a Corbin O'Donnell basket with 6:12 remaining to give the Falcons a 50-49 lead.
Smith answered with a putback to give the Eagles a lead they would not relinquish, but after Richardson and Lawal traded three-pointers to make the score 54-53 in the visitors' favor, Fayetteville Academy was whistled for an intentional foul on a missed Payton layup. The senior stepped to the line with a chance to tie the score or give O'Neal the lead, but both free throws rimmed out. Fayetteville Academy responded with a Smith three-point play that sparked the Eagles on their game-ending run.
"That's a five-point swing, and we just couldn't recover," Coleman said. "We recovered all night long, but we just couldn't recover."
The Eagles forced eight O'Neal turnovers while turning the ball over only two times themselves and made 14 of 20 free throws as compared to 3 of 7 for the Falcons.
FA Girls 66, O'Neal 42
The Eagles jumped out to a 15-2 lead, but O'Neal responded with an 18-6 run to pull within 21-20 on a pair of Maggie Jackson free throws with 3:21 remaining in the second quarter.
The shorthanded and undersized Falcons, who lost center Cristina Morcom this week when the junior transferred to Union Pines, trailed 25-22 at halftime but were outscored 23-12 in the third quarter as the Eagles ended the period on a 14-4 run.
Center Megan McGugan led Fayetteville Academy (11-3, 1-0) with 29 points, including 18 in the second half, and Joi Chrishon added 12 points. Ellen Cowherd scored a team-high 14 points for O'Neal (2-9, 0-1), and Katie Jenkins added 13.
Contact Patrick Love at (910) 693-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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