CHARLOTTE – Something seemed sort of off all night with Charlotte Christian, but the 17-1 Knights made just enough plays down the stretch to hold off Charlotte Latin’s relentless comeback effort to win 70-66 in both team’s CISAA conference opener on Jan. 8.
“We weren’t as patient as I would have liked for them to be, but that happens some nights,” Charlotte Christian coach Shonn Brown said. “That’s life on the road in a conference game. It doesn’t matter what someone puts down on a piece of paper, in the CISAA, which is an unbelievable conference, every night you are going to have teams competing and you are going to have the unbelievable happen. But we were good enough to weather their storm and make some free throws at the end to sort of hold them off.”
With the Knights hanging to a 68-66 lead late, the Hawks fouled Appalachian State commit JC Tharrington with just over 7 seconds to play. Tharrington, who finished with 10 points, five rebounds and five assists, sank the first to put the lead at three. After a Latin timeout, he made the other to put the game out of reach.
At times, the game seemed to be out of reach much earlier, although the Knights never really found their stroke and uncharacteristically missed quite a few layups, many of which were in transition off steals generated from their relentless press.
After the first quarter ended with the score knotted at 10, the Knights made their first mini-run mainly behind the play of senior wing Efosa Edosomwan.
Playing at the back of the press, Edosomwan got his hands on a number of balls and made several steals as Latin struggled to get into its offense.
Edosomwan, who also had seven rebounds and two assists, scored 10 of his 14 points in the first half as the Knights used a 20-5 run turning a 10-10 game into a 30-15 blowout in the making.
But Latin would cut it to 32-21 before the half. After the Knights again went up by 15 points at 40-25, the Hawks would start to chip away. After the third quarter ended at 50-44, the game never got above a five-point margin.
When Latin tied it at 56, Peter Lash drilled one of his three 3-pointers to get the Knights back up by three. Latin cut the deficit to two points on two different occasions, but couldn’t come all the way back.
“They were relentless and made some really big shots,” Brown said. “I think we were a little slack defensively, but (Latin coach) Chris (Berger) does a good job and, again, on the road you have to figure it out. I tip my hat to my guys on the road for not losing their composure, being strong with the ball, hitting free throws when we needed them the most and pulling it out.”
Lash scored 13 of his team-high 18 points in the second half and added three rebounds. Paul Hudson was dominant at times inside and finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists and Seth Bennett scored 10 as all five starters cracked double figure scoring.
While it was a scare, it was the 17th win of the season for the Knights, a team many expect to compete for the NCISAA title this season.
“The leadership from (seniors Bennett, Hudson, Tharrington and Edosomwan) is huge,” Brown said. “We talk a lot about having a resilience, but we have to continue to work on that because we probably shot the ball too quickly and didn’t make them guard us enough and we didn’t spread them out.
“We figured it out and it is a conference win, but it shows us where we can be exposed and the things we have to work on. We have to continue to keep a growth mindset and we have to come to practice and work really hard on the things that have got us to where we are.”
The Knights have a three-game homestand upcoming with Covenant Day (Jan. 11), Providence Day (Jan. 15) and Country Day (Jan. 18) on tap.