12/03/11 — Anderson's layup lifts Faith to victory

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Anderson's layup lifts Faith to victory

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on December 3, 2011 11:35 PM

Hilltop Christian dangled on the hook and tried to wiggle away.

Faith Christian eventually reeled in its prey.

Aaron Hill's steal after an inbounds play and Connor Anderson's subsequent layup sealed the Conquerors' nail-biting 52-47 victory in N.C. Christian Schools Association Coastal 2-A Region action Friday evening.

It shouldn't have been that close.

Faith Christian missed the front ends of three consecutive one-and-one opportunities, and allowed pesky Hilltop to stay within striking distance in the final 60-plus seconds of regulation. The Conquerors shot 3 of 7 from the stripe in the final quarter and 10 of 19 for the game.

"We couldn't hit a free throw," said Faith head coach Jeff Stocks.

Or stop the Chargers' momentum.

Hilltop carved into a double-digit deficit throughout the second half and tied the contest at 38-38 on Jeremy Huff's steal and layup. Dillon Alonso's offensive putback gave the Chargers their first lead, 40-38, with 6:09 remaining in the game.

Michael Clarke's old-fashioned three-point play off Hill's assist put Faith back in front, 41-40. The Chargers forged a 42-42 tie and Hill gave the Conquerors a precarious lead they wouldn't relinquish on a shot in transition.

Hilltop elected to foul and its strategy proved crucial. Faith clanged shots off the iron and the Chargers converted two rebounds into shots by Andrew Tutone on its end of the court. Tutone's 3-pointer closed the gap to 48-47 with under 30 seconds remaining.

Hill, who emerged the game's top scorer with 27 points, drew a foul and nailed two free throws with 18 seconds left. Down a single possession, Hilltop called timeout and Hill came up with the game-clinching steal as play resumed.

Anderson's layup dropped through the net as the clock tripped to triple zeros.

"We just, for some reason, nobody could shoot ... no one," said Stocks of his team's offensive struggles after the first quarter. "We had good shots for a while. Unfortunately, if our shots aren't falling, we slack up everywhere else on the court. It just gets into our head, we don't hustle the way we should and forget our assignments on defense and the press."

The Chargers (4-4 overall, 0-2 Coastal) scored the game's first eight points as the Conquerors misfired on their first six possessions. But a smothering defense allowed Faith (3-2, 1-1) to answer with an 18-0 monster run, and build as much as a 15-point lead in the opening half.

Hilltop closed to within 38-36 after three quarters, setting the stage for the thrilling ending.