Hornets swipe Cavalier home-opener, 73-66
There was some good news for Southern Lee in its boys basketball home opener Thursday night. Mainly, the Cavalier offense had a much better game than in the Cavs' 43-36 loss at Pinecrest earlier in the week.
The rough part of the night was visiting Hillside forcing 27 Cavalier turnovers, and turning many of those steals and bad passes into fast-break baskets in a 73-66 Hornet win.
The Cavaliers took the advantage early on and led until shortly before halftime, then cut a 67-50 Hillside lead going to the fourth down to single digits with four minutes remaining. Hillside's defensive pressure returned though to stall the Cavalier comeback attempt.
Hornet guard Justice Kithcart had a game-high 29 points and six steals. Four Cavaliers hit double-figure scoring, led by reserve wing Cameron Martin knocking down five threes and totaling 17 points. Guard Charles Wicker and forwards Kevin McLeod and Larry McLeod had 10 points each for the Cavs.
Larry McLeod and Justin McKinnon started strong scoring in the paint as the Cavalier starting five jumped out to a 13-6 lead.
A five-Cav line change four minutes into the opening period didn't stop a thing and Southern Lee led 24-16 at the end of the quarter.
The Cavaliers led 33-25 before a 7-0 Hornet run in a serious hurry. Two steals turned into Hornet breaks, with Kithcart's three-pointer cutting the Cavalier lead to 33-32.
Hillside kept the defensive pressure coming and took a 42-37 lead to halftime.
Three-pointers by Wicker and Martin helped the Cavaliers stay close early in the third period. Another stretch of too many turnovers aided the Hornets in an 8-0 run to a 59-47 lead and Hillside led 67-50 going to the fourth period.
The Cavs got a five-point play, with a Martin three-pointer, plus a Hornet foul away from the ball, then the Cavs getting a hoop by Kevin McLeod in the lane, to quickly trim the Hornet lead to 67-56.
Southern Lee fought back within eight, 67-59, before Kithcart stopped the Cavalier run with a drive and jumper across the lane. The Cavs chipped the lead to seven, 71-64, with 0:51 left. On the first shot of a Hornet one-and-one, Kithcart rebounded his own miss and made a shorter shot and the Cavaliers never cut the lead under seven from there.
Robert Robinson Jr. added 17 points for the Hornets. Reserve guard Lashone McCrea had four points and a team-high seven steals and especially sparked Hillside in the second quarter.
Hillside, a 4A program and 21-8 a season ago, was playing its season-opener Thursday night.
Larry McLeod had nine rebounds and four blocks to go with his 10 points.
The Cavaliers (0-2) are playing without shooting guard Noah Mellette because of an injury. Mellette was one of Southern Lee's top scorers last season as a freshman.
The Cavs will hit the road for another difficult test on Monday evening, playing at Chapel Hill (1-1), which went 24-5 last season.