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After first half tussle, Cyclones beats Faith Christian with only five players

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By SAMUEL EVERS
Sports Writer

Friday, February 9, 2018

After the game, once most of the tension in the building had settled, Wilson Community Christian coach Micah Baines could only smile, laugh and shake his head.

His mind was racing through the aftermath of a unique coaching situation, to say the least.

The semifinal game of the NCISAA Coastal Conference tournament between Baines’ Cyclones and host Faith Christian on Friday night was unfolding normally until 1:51 was left in the second quarter, when a CC player got tangled up on a loose ball with a Faith Christian player right in front of the FC bench.

The tie-up turned into a tussle on the ground, and soon after it was a miniature brawl, with parents, players and cops all involved.

When the dust finally settled after a nearly 20-minute delay, six Patriots players were ejected for coming off the bench, and all but five Cyclones were ejected for the same thing, besides DJ Atkinson, who was thrown out for his part in the loose ball situation.

So the remaining Cyclones -- Javan Pender, Tai’Ge Bridgers, Dominique Evans, Avery Winstead and Rieshod Baines -- were forced to play the final 17:51 of the game without any substitutes.

And improbably, they won, 79-76. They move on to the tournament title game against Kerr-Vance Academy today.

“I challenged my guys to just play from the heart,” Baines said. “I tell them, ‘It’s basketball.’ You never know what you’re going to deal with. It’s a game of adversity. We dealt with major adversity. My guys pulled through, man. I’m happy for them.”

After the scuffle, the Cyclones were awarded eight straight free throws because of the amount of FC players that came off of the bench.

Baines made five of those, and a few minutes later CC entered the half with an eight-point lead. They led by five after three points and never trailed in the fourth, though the Patriots did tie it.

The two heroes of the five remaining players were Baines, who finished with 29, and Evans, who had 21.

Those two were the best two remaining players, but the other three -- Pender, Winstead and Bridgers -- pitched in, too. Winstead hit three crucial 3-pointers in the second half, including one with 90 seconds left to push the lead to four, and Bridgers created a handful of extra possessions with offensive rebounds.

“We’ve got five guys who didn’t want to go home,” Evans said. “We just had to play our game, not let those guys get in our heads. Me and Rieshod, we just stuck with what he had in our path. A lot of guys stepped up. I knew if we believed in our teammates, especially with our coach, we’d be able to win the game”

With four minutes left, the Patriots tied the game on a layup by Garrett Pannell, but Evans answered back with a made 3-pointer and a layup to push it back to five points. FC on several occasions was able to pull as close as a tie, but both Evans and Baines were calm and confident enough each time to regain a lead.

“Those are my seniors, those are my guards,” coach Micah Baines said. “I challenged them to find the will within. They did.”

Zach Warrick, who finished with 28 points, kept forcing the issue to keep the Patriots in it, however, and in the waning seconds he made a basket to cut the lead to three with 1.1 seconds left.

The Cyclones turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds pass, and FC had one final chance to tie the game on a 3-pointer, but the defense swarmed and the Patriots were unable to get an attempt off as the final buzzer sounded.

“Disappointed in the guys leaving the bench,” FC coach Rob Brothers said. “That comes with maturity. Emotions were running high. I think the officials missed a couple of calls right in front of our bench when the game was getting a little chippy.”

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