Crusaders take two over O'Neal
Thirty was the number of the night for Grace Christian basketball Tuesday night.
Brooke Strickland scored 30 points and nearly notched a quadruple-double as the Lady Crusaders rolled to a 71-36 win over The O'Neal School. Mark Riches scored 30 points, pouring in 23 in the first half, leading the Crusaders to a 76-63 win over O'Neal.
Strickland, a senior who transferred from Chatham Central to Grace Christian, tallied 30 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and eight steals as the Lady Crusaders improved to a 5-2 mark.
O'Neal focused on trying to stop returning all-state Lady Crusader Anna Murr, who still scored 15 points in the first half and 20 on the night.
"This year, we knew the box-and-one was coming on Anna a lot of nights." said Grace Christian head coach Joel Murr.
Strickland, as least for now, is still under the radar a little, said the Lady Crusader coach. A few more games like Tuesday's will change "under the radar" and help the Lady Crusaders all the way around.
Maggie Jackson led O'Neal (0-3) with 13 points. Katherine Wooddell and Cydney Baldwin had six points each.
Alexis Ross scored nine points and Kaycee Murr added six points for the Lady Crusaders.
Riches and B.J. Harrison, who hit six three-pointers and totaled 24 points, led a hot-shooting night most of the way for the Crusaders. Grace Christian (4-3) led 65-44 with a quarter to play before O'Neal (1-2) closed to as close as 10 points down the stretch.
Led by two three-pointers by Jacob Talbert, the Falcons jumped out to a 10-5 lead. With constant driving to the basket, then converting either in the lane or at the line, Riches poured in 15 points in the first eight minutes. Harrison hit two three-pointers as well and the Crusaders led 21-18 after one period.
Riches and Harrison combined for the first 11 points of the second quarter, stretching Grace's lead to 32-21 two minutes into the quarter. Grace led 42-31 at halftime.
More Crusaders got into the scoring column, including Zachary Boggs who added 12 points. Grace Christian made 10-of-25 three-pointers and 19-of-23 free throws on the night.
Talbert, who missed much of the middle two periods with foul trouble, led the Falcon surge in the fourth quarter. A Talbert three-pointer made it 69-59 Crusaders with 3:40 remaining.
O'Neal had chances to make it a single-digit game but had a couple empty possessions. Grace's Isaac Kruger made a breakaway lay-up with 2:35 left, then Nolan Shoemake made two free throws for a 73-60 Crusader lead with 1:14 left.
Talbert had nine rebounds and five assists along with his 23 points. Jack Johnston added 16 points.
Robert Fulton tallied 10 rebounds and six assists for the Crusaders. Riches had 30 points, six rebounds, five steals and three assists. Grace Christian won the turnover category 16-8.
Both Falcon squads play again Friday evening at Faith Christian. Both Crusader squads host Cape Fear Christian Friday with the girls varsity game set for 6 p.m.