Bartlett Yancey’s boy’s basketball team had to pull everything it had together last Friday night to withstand a difficult challenge from Mid-State Conference rival North Carolina School of Science and Math on the court at Lindsey Page Gymnasium. The Bucs held a solid early advantage, only to watch it whittle away and see the visiting Unicorns take a 7-point-lead with just over two minutes to play.
But the Bucs found a way, pulling off a critical 56-55 victory to regain some momentum heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.
“That was just all heart and effort,” BYHS head coach Mark Hughes said moments after the game. “Those guys did what they needed to do on the defensive side of the ball, and got to the rim. We made a couple big shots and a couple key shots down the stretch, and the rest just took care of itself.”
It looked as though BY would make quick work of the School of Science and Math early on, as an athletic drive and layin by Malik Short, followed by a runner by Ricky Lipscomb, gave the Bucs an early 4-2 lead. After Christian Gwynn buried a 3-pointer for the home team, Short added a putback to make the score 9-2 in favor of the Bucs.
From there, however, NCSSM pulled within 9-8, scoring three straight baskets, before Malachi Gwynn tipped in a missed shot to give the Bucs an 11-8 advantage heading into the second period.
The Unicorns quickly tied on the score on a three-point play, but the Bucs held strong, with Short scoring a bucket, and Malachi Gwynn adding a putback. NCSSM began to get its transition game going, however, and briefly took the lead before Lipscomb dropped in a putback at the buzzer while getting fouled. Lipscomb’s basket gave BY a 23-22 halftime advantage.
The Bucs only had four players score in the first half of this slow-paced, low-scoring affair, with Short leading the way with eight points, and Lipscomb and Gwynn both with six points each.
“As far as the first half, I feel like our zone defense that we run, it worked well,” Hughes explained. “What we tried to do in the first half is get a lot of personnel in the game. We were trying to find that right chemistry to get through the second half.”
BY jumped out to a 28-22 lead in the opening moments of the second half, with Short continuing his solid play on a successful runner, and then a 3-pointer in the corner from Shawn Whitehead. A steal by Miles Jefferson and subsequent pass ahead to Lipscomb made it 30-23 in favor of the Bucs.
From there, however, NCSSM got going, as the visitors from Durham scored seven of the next nine points to pull within 32-30. Cam Holman stopped the bleeding for the Bucs with a putback, making the score 34-30 and forcing a NCSSM timeout.
The Unicorns continued to turn up the heat, with a layup and free throw pulling NCSSM within one point (34-33), and then an uncontested layup through the lane for a 35-34 lead with 6:30 to go in the game.
Christian Gwynn scored for the Bucs to pull within 37-36, but the Unicorns got a three-point play to make the score 40-36. With the game starting to slip away a little, Holman made a huge 3-pointer for the Bucs, pulling them within 40-39 at the 5:14 mark. NCSSM hit another clutch shot, but Gwynn came through with a driving score. A subsequent free throw made it 43-42 with 4:34 left in the game.
Holman made another clutch 3 pointer for BY with 3:45 to play, pulling the Bucs within 48-45, and then Gwynn nailed a 3-pointer a tie the game, 48-48 with 3:10 to go. It was then that a freak play nearly took away all of Bartlett Yancey’s momentum, and just about gave the game away to the Unicorns.
A NCSSM guard was fouled attempting a 3 pointer with 2:34 left. Short, who committed the foul, was called for a technical foul for arguing with the officials. NCSSM got five free throw attempts (three for the foul, two for the technical foul), and converted all five attempts, giving the Unicorns a 53-48 lead. Then NCSSM regained possession and got two free throws, which gave the Unicorns a 55-48 lead with only 2:12 to go.
And then, the Bucs got to work.
First, Malachi Gwynn scored on a drive and runner, making the count 55-50. Jacob Scales then forced a steal and drew a foul with 1:50 left. A lunging left-handed basket by Christian Gwynn while getting fouled made the score 55-52, and his free throw at the 1:32 mark made it 55-53.
BYHS head coach Mark Hughes worked backups Scales and Demontez Branch into the defensive rotation during these critical possessions, which helped stifle NCSSM’s ability to get into its offense.
After regaining possession, Malachi Gwynn came through with a huge basket while getting fouled. His bucket tied the game at 55-55, but he missed the free throw with 1:06 on the clock.
In the final minute, both teams got multiple decent scoring opportunities. But after NCSSM missed a shot, the Bucs grabbed a critical rebound. Setting up for the final shot, BY ran off several seconds. Finally, Malachi Gwynn made his move, driving to the basket and getting fouled on a layin attempt with 1 second to play.
Gwynn made the all-important first shot, which gave the Bucs the one-point lead. He then wisely missed the second shot on purpose, which negated any opportunity for NCSSM to get off a quality final shot.
Only give players for BYHS scored in the triumph, but three were in double figures, led by Malachi Gwynn (15 points), Malik Short (13 points), and Christian Gwynn (12 points). Ricky Lipscomb and Cameron Holman added eight points each. Malachi Gwynn scored nine of his points during the second half, including several baskets during BY’s late rally.
“Malachi and I had a talk after school (Friday). It was very interesting. Malachi is one of our leaders,” Hughes said. “He knows the game well. He’s one of our guys who can do what he needs to do one on one with the basketball. So we relied on him a lot tonight.”