CARY — This was one of those fundamentally sound basketball games when one foolish shot or careless pass could cost the game.
Cary Christian’s boys team locked into a contest with a Voyager squad that was equally as smart with the ball, and the Knights pulled out a 53-49 victory in the third-place game of the Vision Sport Goods tournament Saturday at Cary Academy’s gym.
“Our coaches have been getting on us to make that extra pass and swing the ball and try to get at least one ball reversal,” said Caleb Ellis, a 6-foot-2 junior guard/forward. “That way we can get an open shot or find the open man with that extra pass.”
One crucial example of crisp passing gave the Knights a 29-24 halftime lead that stood up in the second half. With just five seconds to play until intermission, the Knights inbounded the ball under their basket. They found Joe Mullaney open in the right corner for a 3-point field goal he buried with one second on the clock.
Ellis, though, was usually the open man as he led the Knights with 21 points.
“Caleb was unbelievable for us,” said Cary Christian coach Bill Thompson. “He really put us on his back with those 3-point shots he hit at the end. There’s no showboating from him – he’s just an outstanding player.”
The rest of the Cary Christian scoring was balanced as starters Nick Smith and Carson Gray scored six points each and Kave Rabello also contributed six off the bench.
Ellis only wishes the Knights had been a little smarter with the ball a day earlier in the 58-47 semifinal loss to Norfolk Academy.
“I think both teams (Voyager and Norfolk Academy) were on the same level,” Ellis said. “But we didn’t take as good a care of the ball against Norfolk.”
Thompson said the team’s goal was to win the tournament after a disappointing sixth-place finish last year, but he was still happy with the Knights’ overall tournament performance.
“Norfolk was a little too good for us,” he said. “But I was proud of the way our guys came back against Voyager. They are a very good team with good athletes that put a lot of pressure on you.”
Other boys games
Championship: Norfolk Academy held off Fayetteville Christian 56-53 for this year’s boys championship.
Fifth place: Cary Academy defeated the Raleigh Hawks home school team 83-80 in overtime for fifth place in the tournament.
Cary Academy’s John Guerra scored 47 points to lead the Chargers. The total is believed to be a school record.
In the overtime session, Guerra scored 10 points with a 3-point field goal and a 3-point play as the Chargers outscored the Hawks 12-9. Raleigh’s 3-point field goal at the buzzer was in and out.
Seventh place: North Raleigh Christian Academy defeated the South Wake Sabres home school team 72-52. NRCA’s Nick Johnson scored 18 points, and South Wake’s Joe Ashby scored 20 in the match-up.
All-tournament: Boys All-Tournament Team: Guerra, Ellis, Nathan Hewitt (Fayetteville Christian), Jack Markey (Norfolk Academy), Walt Plumlee (MVP, Norfolk Academy).
Championship: Durham Academy claimed the girls tournament title with a 50-35 win against Leesville Road.
Third place: Southern Durham raced to a 65-48 win against North Raleigh Christian for third.
Fifth place: Cary Christian had little trouble with Fayetteville Christian, winning 52-37. Caitlyn Cannon scored 15 points, and Julie Thompson added 14 to lead Cary Christian.
Seventh place: South Granville defeated Raleigh Charter 40-36 to pick up its only win in the tournament.
All-tournament: Thompson, Alexis Joyner (Southern Durham), Dana Worthy (Leesville Raod), Liz Roberts (Durham Academy), Cha’Mia Rothwell (MVP, Durham Academy).
Staff writer J. Mike Blake contributed to this report.