The way both teams played defense in stretches, the first team to reach 50 points was going to win the spirited varsity boys basketball battle between neighboring rivals Rocky Mount Academy and Faith Christian School on Friday.
It turns out it was the Eagles.
RMA saw its double-digit lead sliced to four with 2:37 remaining but hit five crucial free throws and made a basket while its defense held the home team to no field goals in the remaining time in a 52-42 victory over the Patriots on the road in front of an overflow crowd at FCS.
RMA improved to 7-7 overall and 2-1 in the Carolina Independent Conference entering Monday’s home game against Halifax Academy. Faith Christian fell to 2-2 in the league and 7-11 overall with its fifth straight loss.
With the schools being located less than two miles apart, the Patriots’ gym was practically full before the varsity games started, extra sets of small bleachers were brought in, and both fan bases remained engaged throughout most of the last two contests.
In the boys game, Faith took the early 4-0 lead on baskets by Zach Marsigli and Ashton Lascallette, but RMA stormed back behind the outside shooting of Gabe Winham. Winham hit four three-pointers in the first quarter, including three in a row from distance in a 9-2 run over the final 2:13, as the Eagles rallied for an 18-9 lead.
Michael Grant’s bucket early in the second quarter cut the deficit to seven points (18-11) but the Eagles doubled up the Patriots 12-6 in the remaining six minutes (Barnes, Will Tharin, Winham’s fifth triple of the first half and Parker Eatmon) as RMA took a 30-17 advantage into halftime.
A bucket underneath from Owen Smith pushed the visitors’ lead to 14 (32-18), but a 6-0 flurry by Faith (Thomas Sugg and Grant) cut it to eight (32-24) with 4:46 remaining in the third quarter.
Every time the home team made a little mini-offensive run, RMA would get a key basket.
Wells Hutson had a pair of baskets to extend the Eagles’ lead back to 12 (36-24) until FCS closed the quarter on a 6-0 run (Caden Hamlett, a triple by ascallette and a basket from Marsigli off an assist by Arby Bell) to get within six (36-30) as neither squad could produce any offense in the final 2:17.
Jordan Wright’s two baskets and a free throw by Timoni Barnes made it an 11-point RMA lead (43-32) with 4:57 left in the game.
Lascalette’s long triple got the deficit under 10 (43-36) and the Patriots’ subsequent 5-2 spurt (a three-pointer by Bell and a Lascallette basket off a Bell assist) pulled FCS with four points (45-41) with 2:37 remaining.
The Eagles righted their ship after a timeout.
Hutson converted two free throws at 2:22. After the Patriots missed the front end of a one-and-one, Barnes added a free throw for a 48-41 lead.
The Patriots then failed to convert on four chances with under a minute left.
Grant got a steal and was fouled, and he made one of two shots at the line at 50.6 seconds to get FCS within six.
The Eagles sealed the game with a free throw by Hutson at 40.1, and then Smith made the first of two free throws, rebounded the second and scored on a putback with 15 seconds left.
Winham led RMA with 16 points while Hutson added nine.
Grant led FCS with 13 points while Lascallette added nine and Bell chipped in eight.
GIRLS GAME RMA 62, FCS 24
The Lady Eagles (2-0 CIC, 10-5 overall) scored the first 13 points and used smothering defense to defeat the Patriots (1-1 CIC, 5-8 overall) by a lopsided margin.
Taylor Carmichael, Isabella Daza, Jessica Proctor and Mackenzie Davis combined for the first 13 points for RMA before FCS’s Olivia Pannell made a three-pointer at 1:13 to get her team on the board. The Eagles closed with five straight, which included a long, buzzer-beating triple by Proctor to put them up 18-3.
Carmichael’s triple, plus baskets by Davis and Daza, gave RMA a 25-6 lead at the break. Faith’s only points of the quarter came on a free throw by Emma Cate Griffin and a bucket from Aubrey Pittman.
The offense for both teams picked up some in the third quarter. RMA started the stanza on an 11-0 run (Carmichael, Davis and Daza) to make it 36-6 before a bucket by Griffin ended the Patriots’ drought. Buckets from Daza and Audrey Roeder gave the Eagles a 40-16 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Abbie Hooks’ basket moved FCS within 19 (41-22), but RMA collected 23 of the last 25 points (Carmichael, Daza, Davis, Proctor, Landry Miller, Gabbi Ams and Roeder) to complete its scoring.
Carmichael led RMA with 15 points while Davis and Daza collected 14 each.
Pittman paced FCS with 10 points, eight in the second half.