TJCA boys fall to Cherryville, 82-77

Feb. 17, 2014 @ 11:41 PM

It was a game which lived up to its billing between a pair of teams playing for a conference title.

In the end, it came down to the foul line as Cherryville went 3-of-4 from the charity stripe to outlast Thomas Jefferson 82-77 in boys basketball Monday at Cool Springs.

The Gryphons (15-6, 10-2 Southern Piedmont) built up a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter only to watch Cherryville shoot 22-of-35 from the foul line for the win. Conversely, TJCA was just 3-of-16.

“It was a good game between two good teams,” said TJCA head coach Ken Hines Sr. “The difference was they hit their foul shots and boxed out we didn’t. That was the difference.”

Kenny Poston put in eight points to get Cherryville off to a 19-5 lead before the Gryphons responded with an 8-0 run sparked by guards Jaylon Simmons and Nick Mintz. Chris Mintz drove into the low post for a basket that cut the Cherryville lead to 19-15 but Cherryville hit the last two points of the quarter for a 21-15 lead.

TJCA opened the second on a 9-3 run as Simmons nailed a floater to tie the game. From there Thomas Jefferson kept applying pressure inside while Cherryville stayed hot from beyond the arc.

The Gryphons found themselves down 38-32 at half thanks in large part to just 2-of-12 shooting from the foul line.

Mason Fenner took over after the break hitting back-to-back 3s to start the third quarter. His third 3 put the Gryphons up 45-44 with four minutes, 11 seconds left in the quarter.

Fenner kept up the pace with a finger-roll and a pair of 3s to build up the TJCA lead. Nick Mintz drained a floater at the buzzer to put the Gryphons up 61-51 after three.

Then came the fourth.

DJ Cunningham trimmed the Gryphons' lead with a pair of free throws and, after a basket and injury to Efrim Borders, scored eight straight to put Cherryville back on top 78-75.

Borders returned to the game and promptly connected on a jumper to cut the deficit to 2 but Cherryville went 3-of-4 from the foul line down the stretch to earn the win.

Cunningham led all scorers with 29 points but Fenner's three-point barrage in the third quarter led the contributed to his team-high 24 points.

The loss forces Thomas Jefferson to play in the opening round of the conference tournament Wednesday. As the higher seed, the Gryphons will host the quarterfinals while the semifinals and championship will be at Cherryville Thursday and Friday.

Tip-off Wednesday is tentatively set for 8 p.m. following the girl's first round game with Highland Tech at Cool Springs.