A game that figures to impact who wins North Carolina's private-school boys basketball championship took place 80 miles south of the state border Tuesday night.
The early indication is the incumbent remains the favorite.
Christ School (N.C.) and Charlotte Christian battled back and forth before Christ School emerged with a 60-57 win in the Classic II bracket final of the Chick-fil-A Classic at Richland Northeast High.
The game featured five players who have either signed or committed to play Division I basketball, plus nearly a half dozen others who clearly are capable of playing at that level. When it was done, the defending state champion Greenies (14-1), ranked No. 21 nationally, had claimed their third consecutive Chick-fil-A title.
But coach David Gaines walked away knowing his team will need to play better if it is to defend its N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Class 3A championship.
"We've had a disturbing trend lately of not taking care of the basketball and not finishing shots," Gaines said. "It lets people stay in the game."
Christ School led 35-23 at halftime only to see Charlotte Christian (9-2) score 20 of the first 23 points of the second half to lead 45-40.
South Carolina commitment Anthony Gill, who scored a team-high 16 points while playing in front of USC coach Darrin Horn, helped the Knights' cause. The 6-foot-7 junior scored three baskets during the run, including an impressive dribble drive to the goal and an interior basket that pushed Charlotte Christian's lead to five.
"They brought it right to us," Gaines said.
The Greenies finally got their transition game going, scoring 10 consecutive points to lead 50-45 with 6:27 to play.
Mistakes and missed shots allowed Charlotte Christian to take a 54-52 lead when Gill scored at the 3:19 mark. Christ School finished with 17 turnovers and shot 41.9 percent.
"The mental decisions are going to derail this basketball team," Gaines said.
Still, the Greenies' talent allowed them to persevere.
Elon-bound 6-8 guard Sebastian sank a 3-pointer and all-tournament guard Tony Kimbro scored in transition, putting Christ School up for good at 57-54.
A 3-pointer by Akil Mitchell, the 6-7 Charlotte Christian senior who has signed with Virginia, sliced the Greenies' lead to 59-57 with 7.1 seconds left. A backcourt turnover gave the Knights a chance to tie or take the lead.
But Mitchell, after taking the inbounds pass, shuffled his feet while setting up to shoot and was called for traveling with 5.4 seconds left.
"We showed a glimpse of how good we can be," Charlotte Christian coach Shonn Brown said. "They are quick and they are strong. Our team is right there. We're very excited that we could face them again in the state playoffs."
Christ School (NC) 60, Charlotte Christian 57
CS: Plumlee 4, Lopez 8, Smith 8, Tony Kimbro 17, Koch 5, Dixon 2, Troutman 4, Demarcus Harrison 12. CC: Mitchell 5, Hargett 6, Anthony Gill 16, Walker 4, Maharajh 8, Harris 5, Worth Smith 13. Rec: CC 9-2, CS 14-1.