O'Neal Falters in Fourth
By Patrick Love
The first week of Cape Fear Independent Conference play was not kind to The O'Neal School's boys' basketball team.
On the heels of a near-miss against third-ranked Fayetteville Academy in their league opener on Tuesday, the Falcons entered the fourth quarter of Friday's game against visiting Cape Fear Academy with a four-point lead but were outscored 21-16 from there and fell 47-46.
"I think honestly we're still growing as a program," said O'Neal head coach Casey Coleman. "Last year we never had leads, and now we're having leads in the fourth quarter, and we don't know how to finish. Over a time I think we will."
The loss overshadowed a career game from O'Neal center John Schoemmell, who finished with a game-high 19 points despite being shadowed by 6-foot-9 Cape Fear Academy center David Hill for much of the game. The Falcons' tallest player, Schoemmell stands just 6-foot-1.
Nevertheless, Schoemell's third and final three-pointer gave O'Neal (4-8, 0-2) a 30-26 lead as the third-quarter buzzer sounded. Cape Fear Academy (8-6, 1-1) answered with a 17-6 run to take a 43-36 lead over the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, a time when the Falcons made just 4 of 9 free throws.
O'Neal made 12 of 20 free throws in the game and turned the ball over 18 times, both factors in the team's loss, Coleman said.
"If we hit our free throws, we win the ballgame," he said. "If we don't turn the ball over, which we focused on in pregame, we win the ballgame."
The Hurricanes' poor effort from the line - they made just 8 of 19 free throws - allowed O'Neal to chip away at the lead in the closing minutes. A free throw from Cape Fear Academy guard Matt Stone with seven seconds remaining was waived off for a lane violation, leaving the Hurricane lead at 47-43.
O'Neal forward Corbin O'Donnell banked in a contested three-pointer at the final buzzer but failed to get a whistle, leaving the final margin in the Hurricanes' favor.
Chris Payton added 16 points to the Falcon effort, and Jide Lawal finished with six.
Cape Fear Academy was led by eight points apiece from Hill, Stone and Mike Adams. A junior, Hill also had 13 rebounds and three blocks.
Cape Fear Academy took a 17-point lead into the fourth quarter and held off O'Neal, 48-37.
Ellen Cowherd scored 19 points to lead the Lady Falcons (2-10, 0-2), and Katie Jenkins added 14 points.
The O'Neal teams will seek their first conference wins Tuesday when they travel to Harrell's Christian Academy.
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