WAXHAW – The Cuthbertson boys basketball team just went through the gauntlet of Southern Carolinas basketball, facing Weddington, Sun Valley and Charlotte Catholic in consecutive games.
Those teams are all tied atop the league standings with one loss, but each game against the Cavs was a tough one.
On Jan. 18, against Weddington, the Cavs led by two points at the half, but got outscored by 10 in the third quarter and never could quite catch back up, falling 53-48.
Against Sun Valley one Jan. 22, the Cavs fought back again, but fell 64-58.
The loss to the Spartans was the 11th of the season that the Cavs (6-12 overall and 2-6 in Southern Carolinas play) have surrendered by 11 points or less and many have been even closer.
Against Charlotte Catholic on Jan. 25, the Cavs came out sluggish. After scoring just five points in the second quarter, they trailed 25-14 at the half.
But they fought back, outscoring the Cougars 24-11 in the third quarter and holding the lead well into the fourth frame.
Both teams traded the lead until the final seconds, when Catholic forward David Pino connected on just his fifth 3-pointer of the season, this one left open on the wing as the buzzer sounded to let Catholic escape with a 56-53.
It was the 12th loss by 11 or fewer points, and another stinger to coach Mike Helms and his guys as they seem so close to breaking through but can’t quite get there.
“Three games in a row we’ve played pretty darn well and we just can’t get a reward,” he said. “We played Weddington, Sun Valley and Catholic – the three teams that have one conference loss – and we played all of them right down to the wire. We deserve a reward. That one tonight, with that shot, we’d take our chances on every time.
“We told the kids, ‘Listen, overall we’re are playing well. If we keep playing well it’s going to fall our way.’ It’s just one of those things. That’s our league. Every game is like this. The teams that are winning the close ones are sitting at the top and the rest of us are looking up.”
The Cavs were led by sophomore JP Haggarty who scored 18 points, all of which came in the second half, and added 10 rebounds while sophomore Will Heyward added 16.
“They are good players,” Helms said of his young stars in the making. “Will played really well tonight. He had a little lull in the middle of the season, but right now he is playing well and that’s good to see. But, those two sophomores are really good. JP, like a lot of young kids, is a little inconsistent. He’ll have 25 one night and six the next. He’s a kid we need to put points on the board for us to be good. Will is a glue guy. He’s a good defender, he’s hard nosed and he’s coming and he’s going to keep coming so those guys are definitely a plus.”
Senior guard Martin Flax scored 15 in the loss to Catholic as Cuthbertson’s big three scored 49 of the Cavs 53 points.
Flax is leading the team with 13 points per game and also averages over three assists while shooting 46 percent from the field.
“Martin has played extremely consistent this year and has been really good for us,” Helms said. “He’s averaging about 15 or 16 points in the league when it matters and is really having a good year for us.”
Haggarty is the team’s No. 2 scorer at about 10 points and six rebounds per game. Junior forward Tyrell Dawson and senior guard Jaelin Goode have played well and both average about eight points each while Matthew Starnes and Josh Cureton have been solid role players all season.
But, for whatever reason, the Cavs can’t get the bounce to go their way just yet. They have winnable upcoming games with Piedmont (Feb. 1), Monroe (Feb. 5) and at Parkwood (Feb. 8) before they travel to Catholic on Feb. 12.
Helms knows his team is playing well and close to turning it around.
It just takes that one bounce.
“It’s just one of those things, but hopefully we find that bounce really soon,” he said.