It wasn’t the fourth quarter Rocky Mount Academy wanted but it will take a defense of its homecourt.
Raleigh Grace Christian scored 21 points in the fourth quarter and made two runs to challenge Rocky Mount Academy’s lead, but Rocky Mount Academy was able to escape with a 53-50 victory Tuesday at Rocky Mount Academy.
“We lost focus on our defense, and that’s something we need to work on,” Rocky Mount Academy coach Scott Dunn said. “Our defense did not play as well late in the game as I would have liked.”
Rocky Mount Academy (8-3, 5-1 Eastern Plains Independent Conference) led by as many as 16 in the third quarter before it needed an extra push and some help from the clock.
Grace Christian (3-10, 2-4) had the lead down to 10 by the end of the third quarter, then went on a 7-0 run in the fourth to make the score 44-40.
Rocky Mount Academy’s Ford Jolley hit a free throw and Elijah McCadden made back-to-back lay-ups to push the lead back to nine, only for Grace Christian to make a 6-0 run inside the final minute.
With Rocky Mount Academy’s lead down to three, it let 2.4 seconds run out before inbounding underneath its own basket to preserve the victory.
The win sets up a game against Raleigh St. David’s on Thursday at Rocky Mount Academy for sole possession of second place in the EPIC.
“It was a take-care-of-business win,” Dunn said. “Thursday is going to be a big game for us.”
McCadden led Rocky Mount Academy with 16 points, while Zach Fulcher notched a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Jacob Hunter also scored 10 points for Rocky Mount Academy.
Alex Ash had a game-high 16 rebounds for Grace Christian.
Ash’s size presented matchup problems for the Eagles, but Dunn commended players such as Fulcher for keeping Rocky Mount Academy competitive inside.
After some early struggles, Rocky Mount Academy was able to find consistent offense to create a big lead against Grace Christian.
For bigger games, however, Rocky Mount Academy believed it can’t let leads slip away like it did Tuesday.
“We just got to be able to finish the games,” Fulcher said. “When we get a team down, we gotta be able to close them out.”
Grace Christian 43
R.M. Academy 31
In a game of three stages, Rocky Mount Academy found itself too tired for the Act III it needed.
After falling behind, 15-2, to begin the game, Rocky Mount Academy finished the second quarter on a 7-0 run and clawed to within two in the third quarter – enticing Grace Christian’s three top players into foul trouble in the process – but didn’t have the final push to take a lead.
Grace Christian used a 12-0 run immediately after Rocky Mount Academy came within two to put away the game, then eased to a win.
“Our biggest issue is our depth,” Rocky Mount Academy coach Brent Acker said. “We don’t have enough depth or experience to fall behind. I think we just ran out of gas.”
Rocky Mount Academy (2-9, 1-3) has a roster of only seven players, and Grace Christian (3-13, 1-14) was able spend most of the fourth quarter up double digits.
“The girls, they fought back, fought back, but at the end, Grace just executed better than we did,” Acker said.
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 firstname.lastname@example.org