O'Neal Comeback Comes Up Short
It wasn't exactly blow-for-blow. But it wasn't an early-round knockout either.
O'Neal School went the distance with league-leading Fayetteville Christian in a boys' basketball game Tuesday night, twice cutting an 18-point second-half deficit to six in the fourth quarter. And the homestanding Falcons had chances to get even closer than that.
They didn't, falling 63-55 to the Warriors' unique brand of "32 minutes of hell." But O'Neal coach Casey Coleman still felt his squad accomplished some of its goals in the game.
"We knew they were going to pressure," he said. "Our kids, we experienced it last year - we got blown out twice. Tonight we just took on the challenge of playing as hard as we could. I can't fault our kids for fighting hard. (Fayetteville Christian is) a good basketball team, and we fought our butts off."
After erasing an early 12-2 deficit with a 15-2 run to end the first quarter, the Warriors seemed to be hitting on all cylinders. Guard Kyree Bethel scored 28 points in the first half, and his team cruised to its largest lead at 47-29 with 3:35 remaining in the third quarter.
But O'Neal answered with a 20-8 run spanning the third and fourth periods, with senior guard Chris Payton scoring nine points in the span and senior center John Schoemmell adding seven.
Payton cut the deficit to 55-49 with two free throws with 4:47 to play, but after a pair of O'Neal turnovers, the Warriors eventually answered with a Bethel three-pointer. A pair of ZaCorey Williams free throws with less than a minute to play proved to be the knockout blow.
Fayetteville Christian improved to 20-4 overall and 5-0 in Cape Fear Independent Conference play with the win. Bethel finished with 34 points but was limited to six in the second half as O'Neal went to a box-and-one defense.
Payton, Schoemmell and Christian Bolduc scored 13 points apiece to lead O'Neal, which fell to 5-10 overall and 1-4 in conference play. Jacob Talbert added 10 points.
O'Neal fell 63-23 in the girls' game. Senior Ellen Cowherd scored 16 of the Lady Falcons' 23 points.
Courtney Mull scored a game-high 20 points to lead the Lady Warriors (18-3, 3-2). O'Neal fell to 2-13 overall and 0-5 in conference play with the loss.
The Falcon' games tonight at Cape Fear Academy have been postponed to Feb. 4.
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