Middle Creek holds off Yellow Jackets, 57-51
Middle Creek kept its hold on first place in the Tri-Nine boys basketball standings by squeaking out a 57-51 win over Lee County Wednesday night.
The Yellow Jackets (10-9, 7-4) had given the Mustangs (14-5, 10-1) their only league loss, a 55-52 overtime result at Middle Creek in December, and the Jackets had more than a fair shot for a sweep.
Surviving a frenzied start by the Mustangs, Lee County fought back into the game before halftime and an 8-0 run in the third period put the Jackets in front.
Lee County led 47-44 going to the fourth period before a slowed pace and too many Jacket turnovers held Lee County to four points in the last eight minutes.
Still, Lee County had its chances in the final two minutes.
Trailing 50-49 with 1:48 to go, the Mustangs grabbed an offensive board off a missed free throw, then proceeded to have Khamari Bobbitt, who scored a game-high 25 points, make two at the line putting Middle Creek ahead with 1:27 left.
After a Jacket miss, the Mustangs broke down the court and Bobbitt made a lay-up off of Quinton Ray's feed. A Jacket turnover cost them their next possession but the Jackets had a shot to tie after Bobbitt went 0-for-2 at the line with 0:16 left.
Inbounding the ball along the baseline under their hoop with 9.2 seconds left, the Jackets couldn't get a man open and Hunter Jackson, looking to make a pass, signaled a timeout. Lee County was out of timeouts, resulting in a technical foul. The Mustangs scored four points off the ensuing free throws and possession to put their victory away.
Middle Creek opened up jumping out to an 8-0 lead in the first 1:57 of the game. Mustang pressing hassled the Jackets, resulting in four buckets in the first quarter, three by Bobbitt, off of Mustang steals in the Jacket backcourt.
Hunter Jackson's shooting kept the Jackets within reach as he scored seven points in the first period. Middle Creek led 24-15 after a quarter, then 28-21 in the second before a 7-0 Jacket run.
Dewaun McEachin scored a three-point play in the run and Tre Wells tapped in an offensive board to make it 28-28 with about three minutes to go in the half. Middle Creek took a 35-31 edge to the locker room but considering the start, the Yellow Jackets were in good position.
The Yellow Jacket defense took its turn forcing Mustang mistakes and an 8-0 run, with a Jackson jumper making it 42-42, then Jason Payne's corner three-pointer putting Lee County ahead 45-42, gave the Jackets their first lead of the night.
Payne hit a short jumper in the lane putting the Jackets up 50-48 with a little more than two minutes left in the game but it wound up being Lee County's last field goal.
McEachin and Jackson each had 12 points and six boards. Wells led Lee County on the boards with nine. Dante Graham had nine points and five assists.
Bobbitt's scoring led the Mustangs but a lot of his 25 points came thanks to Ray running the point with six points, 12 assists and six rebounds. Quentin Jackson added 15 points, including three three-pointers. Middle Creek finished with a 20-14 advantage in turnovers.
The Yellow Jackets, still in position for a postseason spot with five Tri-Nine contests to play, travel to Cary Friday night for a 7 p.m. tip. Lee County edged the Imps 56-55 in Sanford in December.