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Patriots keep faith, win on last second free throw

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Faith Christian School's Caroline Whitley, center, attempts to pass out of a double team by Wilson Community Christian School's Anna Jackson, right, and Morgan Garner on Tuesday during the Coastal Independent Conference Tournament game at Faith Christian School.

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By SAMUEL EVERS
Sports Writer

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

In a wild game that was back-and-forth from the beginning, host Faith Christian and Community Christian, playing in the first round of the NCISAA Coastal Conference tournament, saved the best -- and weirdest -- for the final six seconds of overtime.

Up by one, 58-57, with the ball with 5.6 seconds left of the overtime period, Faith Christian coach Tyler Hendricks decided to call a timeout to talk over the waning seconds. The problem: He didn’t have a timeout.

After the three referees conferred, the technical foul was called and Community Christian’s Olivia Bullard -- who hit the shot to send it to an extra period -- was sent to the line. She split the pair for the tie, and the Cyclones got the ball back with a chance to win. Bullard got the inbounds pass at near half court, drove to the basket and laid the ball up and in, for what appeared to give her team a two-point, 60-58 lead.

But amidst the live-action, a ref whistled the play dead and called a travel on Bullard before her shot attempt. That sent the the Community Christian coaches and parents into chaos -- all with less than a second left -- and a ref responded by calling a technical foul on the Cyclones’ bench.

So, with .5 seconds left, Logan Ayers went to the line for the Patriots and knocked down a free throw to give her team a one-point lead. After a quick inbounds to make it official, the dust had cleared and Faith Christian was the improbable winner by a 59-58 score, moving on the second round of the conference tournament, which will be played this Friday.

“I didn’t really know what to think,” Faith Christian coach Tyler Hendricks said. “Just a rollercoaster of a game going on.”

The walkoff free throw by Ayers was fitting. She carried the Patriots (10-13, 6-5) on offense for most of the game and finished with 33 points, including 14 in the second period and 10 in the four minutes of overtime.

“I was nervous. I can’t put it into words right now; the fast-paced parts of the game,” Ayers said. “We were excited when it was over. Proud of our team that we were able to pull through.”

The biggest lead throughout the entire game was eight for the Patriots, which came in the second quarter. They also led by five with five minutes left in the game, but the Cyclones scored eight straight points to go up by three with two minutes left.

Ayers made a layup to pull within one point, then Savannah Langley got fouled and made both to regain the lead at 43-42. Bullard answered with a 3-pointer to go up by two, then Faith Christian’s Bethany Young hit two straight jump shots to make it 47-45 with 13 seconds left.

That looked like a possible game-winner, but Bullard again made a clutch jump shot to send it to the overtime period, where the real drama was set to begin, and where Ayers helped the Patriots finally put it away.

“That’s an incredible game for her,” Hendricks said. “She;s really stepped up and took her role well playing as a 10th grader.”

Boys: Faith Christian 66, Oakwood 50

Faith Christian boys’ basketball coach Rob Brothers couldn’t have asked for a better start on Tuesday night, playing at home in the first round of the NCISAA Coastal Conference tournament against Oakwood.

The Patriots began the first quarter by scoring 12 straight points, keeping Oakwood scoreless for the first four minutes.

The Eagles did settle down and mount a comeback, coming as close seven points in the third quarter, but Faith Christian answered back and closed out a 66-50 victory. They move on to the second round of the conference tournament, which will be played on Friday against Community Christian.

“We’ve been pushing the tempo on offense, getting the ball off the rebound, getting it to midcourt and they weren’t getting back early,” Brothers said. “We played very well. The whole first half they looked a little bit frustrating with what was going on.”

The catalyst for the Patriots were guards Garrett Pannell and Hobart Brantley, who both slashed and hustled their way to a big impact on the game. Pannell led all scorers with 24 points and Brantley added eight.

“It was big to go ahead early, jump on them right out of the gate,” Pannell said. “We like to speed things up. We’re two of the faster guys on the team so we try to keep the momentum going.”

The Patriots already have a spot in the state tournament, which begins next week, so the plan for the rest of the three round tournament is to fine tune some aspects in time for what they hope is a deep run.

“It was important to win tonight to get to the weekend. Those games will be dress rehearsals as far as I’m concerned for what we’re going to try and do next Tuesday,” Brothers said. “It will be pretty similar competition to what we’re seeing in our conference tournament.”

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