In a battle of defending state champions, Northside Christian Academy (N.C.) pulled away from A.C. Flora in the second half to score a 70-53 triumph Saturday in the final day of the Bojangles’ Bash.
The Knights from Charlotte (8-3) took control in the third quarter, expanding a 37-33 lead at the 5:30 mark of the quarter to 54-35 entering the final frame. NCA put it away with a 13-4 run in the final 5:28 after the Falcons pulled within 57-49 with a 6-0 spurt early in the fourth.
“The guys played their tails off tonight against a good team with size,” said Knight coach Byron Dinkins, whose program has earned three straight North Carolina Independent 2A championships.
“We had good contributions from all the guys, and that’s what we’re going to have to do. We faced teams with size before coming here, so the guys were not intimidated.”
Northside Christian has a clear star in 6-foot-5 senior Rayjon Tucker, who wowed the crowd with a game-high 25 points, including six dunks.
“(Northside) is very well-coached, and they have an exceptional player (Tucker),” Flora coach Josh Staley said.
Tucker, who is committed to Florida Gulf Coast, had solid support from Malcolm Cumberbatch and Lysander Bracey. Cumberbatch scored 17 points, featuring 5-for-9 shooting from 3-point range. Bracey tallied 14 points and had a team high eight rebounds.
Flora dropped to 4-2.
“We weren’t real sharp today, but I’ve been around long enough to know that it’s how you play at the end of the season that counts, not in December,” Staley said.
“We’re not playing our best basketball right now, and that’s fine with me because I’m confident we’ll be where we want to be when it’s time. The biggest challenge we face is putting more focus on defense.”
Sophomore James Reese and senior Karl Gamble did the heavy lifting for the Falcons.
Reese scored 13 points while the 6-9 Gamble tallied 12 in addition to accounting for 12 boards and three blocks.