HIGH POINT — High Point Christian found a way to win a hard-fought game against a good team.
The Cougars built a double-digit lead that held into the fourth quarter, then made key plays down the stretch to beat Northwood Temple 81-72 in nonconference boys basketball Tuesday at HPCA.
In the girls game, HPCA led big early and cruised to a 68-32 win.
“I was real anxious, because this was a late-change in the schedule,” Cougars boys coach Joseph Cooper said. “Northwood Temple is the defending state champion for 1A, and we knew they have tremendous size and tremendous talent. So, we knew it was going to be a dogfight.
“We’ve been comparing it to a heavyweight bout for the last couple days. And with so many new parts to our team and so many guys who can play, because we’re really deep, I was really anxious to see how guys would respond with that size and skill. Overall I was very pleased.”
Ethan Smith scored 30 points — hitting eight 3-pointers, including seven in the first half — to lead HPCA (4-0), which led by 10 within the first six minutes of the game, then watched its lead disappear in the second before leading 41-32 into halftime. Isaiah Sanders added 14 points.
“I thought we played really well as a team,” said Smith, a 6-foot-7 junior guard/forward. “That was our motto going into it. We wanted to play together and make sure we’re cheering on everybody else when they do things. That was Coach’s message and I think we did that.
“They started off a little slow, because I think they played back-to-back from last night and they probably were a little tired. And we were hitting shots and they weren’t, and that’s what it came down to in the beginning. Then it was back-and-forth until the end. That lead helped us a lot by hitting shots.”
The Cougars stretched their lead to 17 points in the third before the Eagles (4-4) rallied in the fourth. Northwood Temple, which was led by Julian Williams with 26 points, got as close as three points — once with 2:48 left in the game and again with 2:33 left.
But HPCA, which was without standout K.J. Garrett after he fouled out midway through the fourth, scored on four straight possessions — including two trips to the foul line by P.J. Underhill — and got a handful of defensive stops — highlighted by a pair of charges that Underhill drew — to stave off the comeback.
“Those are game-winning plays,” Cooper said. “They’re the difference between a win and a loss. I’m really happy for P.J. — a senior — to contribute in a big way like that. The great thing about him is he’s so selfless — whatever the team needs is what he’s willing to do. And you’ve got to have guys like that.”
The Cougars pushed their lead back out to 10 with 49 seconds left.
Tiir Nyok scored 18 points to lead High Point Christian (5-0), which led 13-3 within the first 31/2 minutes and led 43-12 at halftime. Nadiya Hairston and Kennedy Powell each added 14 points.
“I think we played pretty well,” Cougars coach Brittany Drew said. “We’re trying to take every game as our last because we just don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring.
“(The start) was great because last year we didn’t start games that well. So, the fact that we are starting off well and remaining consistent throughout each quarter I think that’s big for us.”
HPCA forced a flurry of turnovers and misses during the first half, quickly converted them into points and steadily raced away. Its lead peaked at 39 midway through the second and hovered in the 30s the rest of the way as substitutes saw plenty of playing time in the second half.
“I’m excited,” Drew said. “I tell them we’ve got to take it game by game, week by week and month by month. We had a really good November and now we’re into December, so hopefully we can carry that on.
“I really like how we’re blending the new kids and the kids from last year. I feel like everyone got better from last year. And adding new energy is always great.”
Danauje Brooks scored 22 points to lead Northwood Temple (3-1).
The Cougars play again Friday at Grace Christian in Raleigh.
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HP CHRISTIAN BOYS 81, NORTHWOOD TEMPLE 72
NTA 15 17 16 24 – 72
HPCA 21 20 16 24 – 81
Julian Williams 26, Brady Rankin 14, Emmanual Sepulveda 13, Alford 6, Sam 6, Baldwin 3, Dean 2, McIntyre 2
HIGH POINT CHRISTIAN
Ethan Smith 30, Isaiah Sanders 14, Underhill 9, McIntosh 9, Garrett 8, Archie 7, Johnson 2, White-Dorsette 2
HP CHRISTIAN GIRLS 68, NORTHWOOD TEMPLE 32
NTA 8 4 13 7 – 32
HPCA 24 19 17 8 – 68
Danauje Brooks 22, Nolin 4, Eaker 3, McMillan 2, Covin 1
HIGH POINT CHRISTIAN
Tiir Nyok 18, Nadiya Hairston 14, Kennedy Powell 14, Walls 8, Hayworth 6, Sink 3, Smith 3, Couillard 2