CARY — Both the Cary Christian girls and boys basketball teams put on dominating performances against Eastern Plains Independent Conference rival Raleigh Grace Christian in a packed gym on Friday.
Senior Julie Thompson led the unbeaten Lady Knights to a 60-26 victory over the Eagles, while Caleb Ellis and Jason Thompson propelled the Knights to a 65-30 win.
Both Knight teams used a pressing defense to jump out to big first-half leads and cruise in the second half.
Knights girls roll: Girls head coach Shelly Holmes realized her team was a bit tentative in the first quarter, when it nursed a 7-6 lead. Holmes said Cary Christian was not used to facing a team with two tall girls, the Eagles tandem of Carol Anne Obusek and Devan Ferrell.
Once they settled down and realized they still needed to attack, the Knights (6-0) outscored Grace Christian 21-6 in the second quarter to take a 28-12 lead into intermission.
“The girls just started seeing the gaps in their defense and getting the ball into the openings for easier shots,” said Holmes.
Cary forced Grace into numerous hurried and contested shots, in addition to creating turnovers and fast break opportunities.
Thompson led the winners with 17 points, but the senior was more thrilled afterward with the play of all her teammates, especially Emily Clarkson, who chipped in 11 points, and Grace Smith, who added nine.
“We’re like a family, we have so much fun together,” Thompson said. “Hopefully our upcoming Christmas tournament will help prepare us for what we hope to see later at states.”
Grace fell to 1-9. Obusek paced the Eagles with 12 points, while Parnaya Bora added eight.
“We’re a young team with five freshmen and three sophomores,” said Grace head coach Lawrence Thames. “We competed tonight. We’re just trying to build the program.”
Quick start for Cary boys: The Knights (6-2) scored the game’s first 13 points, led 22-3 at one point, and cruised to a 36-15 halftime lead over the shorthanded Eagles.
Ellis (15 points) and Thompson (14) shot over and passed around the Grace defense, while Nick Smith added eight points. Cary used a tenacious press defense to disrupt the Grace ballhandlers, forcing turnovers and creating some easy transition scoring opportunities.
“We shot the ball well and played great defense, which is always a recipe for success,” said Cary Christian head coach Bill Thompson. “We’re so deep, honestly the hardest problem is getting playing time for all these guys.”
Ellis had the highlight play of the evening, a thunderous dunk after Devin Dukes stole an Eagle pass. Thompson nailed three treys and drove to the basket with authority, while Chico Mendes dished out several assists.
“We knew the fans would keep us pumped up tonight,” Ellis said. “We were passing the ball so well and really moving without the ball.”
Jason Thompson agreed, and said the team was finishing plays and displayed a focus that it will need the rest of the season.
Grace (2-7), which was missing two starters, including point guard Michael Hager, knew going in the night might be challenging.
“We just didn’t handle their press well,” Grace head coach John Green said. “We had players playing out of position, but we’re not making excuses, (Cary) played a great game. We will get better from this experience.”
Alex Ash and Aaron Baker each scored 10 points for the Eagles.