Senior Night Sweep
Varsity Cougars take pair from Hounds in home finale
By DN PENNELL, Jr.
The Alexander Central Varsity Basketball Teams sent their senior team members out as winners with a doubleheader sweep over Statesville in North Piedmont Conference action on Tuesday night, February 7, in Taylorsville.
On Senior night, ACHS honored four senior women’s players and seven senior men who were playing their final regular season home game on Tuesday.
The Cougar Women grabbed a 66-61 win in the opener to avenge a loss to the Lady Greyhounds earlier this season. Alexander’s Men won a thriller in the nightcap, posting a 55-54 win with a late basket to seal the deal.
It’s likely senior forward John Blankenship will remember his basketball Senior Night for a long time. The Cougar reserve, who has bolstered the ACHS bench of late, came up with the play of the game for the Varsity Men on Tuesday evening. Blankenship’s steal and driving layup with five seconds remaining erased a one-point Greyhound lead and lifted the home team to the 55-54 win.
Alexander built a 14-point lead in the third period and looked primed to dispatch of the Greyhounds without an extensive effort. However, the visitors from Statesville had a different idea. Statesville roared back for a 22-14 run in the fourth period and when Jalen Gaines and Izaiah Gathings combined for three points in the final minute, the Hounds held a 54-51 lead.
A pair of free throws from Alexander senior Noah Presnell trimmed the lead to one-point with 26 seconds to play.
ACHS forced a turnover on Statesville’s next possession but could not capitalize on the miscue when Noah Presnell’s shot with 11 seconds to play was off the mark. Statesville rebounded the miss and Alexander fouled to stop the clock.
On the ensuing play, Blankenship came up with the steal and driving layup for ACHS, setting off a celebration among the capacity Cougar Den crowd.
Following a timeout by the Hounds, Statesville’s Tyreke Holmes’ final shot was off the mark allowing the Cougars to escape with the one point win.
The victory upped Alexander’s overall record to 15-8 and 10-3 in NPC games. The Cougars enter Thursday’s regular season finale at West Iredell in second place in the league standings. Lake Norman (11-2) leads the league entering the final game on the schedule.
In Tuesday’s win, senior forward Justin Dula (seven for 10 from the floor) continued his recent hot play with a 17-point, six rebound effort. The Cougar big man delighted the crowd with a pair of dunks, and added three blocked shots on defense. Presnell added 14 points, while Matt Wilkinson and Kaleb Parsons tallied six points apiece. Blankenship and Matt Graham added four points apiece.
On the night, Alexander shot 39 percent from the field and outscored Statesville 11-2 off the bench.
LADY COUGARS HOLD ON TO WIN BY FIVE
The Alexander Varsity Women raced out of the gate with one of their best quarters of the season on Tuesday night. However, despite outscoring Statesville 25-11 in the first period, the Lady Cougars had to hang on down the stretch to win 66-61.
The Lady Cougars improved to 14-9 overall and 9-4 in North Piedmont games with the win.
After building its biggest lead of the night at 14-points in the first period, Alexander saw Statesville fight back in the second period to get back into the game. The visiting Hounds outscored Alexander 17-9 in the second period to trail 36-28 entering the half.
In the second half, the Lady Hounds got as close as two points on two occasions, but the road team could never get even. Alexander quelled the Greyhound uprising down the stretch and never relinquished its lead.
The difference in the game came at the foul line. The Lady Cougars hit 28 of 33 shots from the charity stripe, outscoring Statesville 28-11 at the line. Abby Cook paced Alexander with an 11-12 effort on foul shots.
Statesville’s dominance on the boards nearly erased the free throw deficit. The Hounds grabbed 49 rebounds in the game, a dozen more than the Cougars. The board control led to a 25-7 advantage for the visitors on second-chance points.
Cook led ACHS in scoring and rebounding as she recorded the 40th double-double of her high school career. Cook scored 17 points and finished with 14 rebounds. Key Key Miller tallied 16 points and Mattie Barr added 12 points for the Cougars.
Danasia Gray scored 25 points for Statesville to lead all scorers.
The Cougar Teams travel to West Iredell to close the regular season on Thursday, February 9. The day opens with JV women’s action at 4 pm.
Next week, ACHS is slated to host first-round North Piedmont Conference games in men’s and women’s action. The opening round games are tentatively set for Monday, February 13, at 6 pm in Taylorsville.