BATTLE AT THE TOP: Terra Ceia claims first in win at Pungo
Published 1:19 am Wednesday, January 13, 2016
BELHAVEN — Terra Ceia and Pungo competed in the classic showdown one would expect from the two NCISAA Tarheel Conference powerhouses. The atmosphere in Belhaven was electric. In the end, it was Terra Ceia claiming the 64-52 road win to secure first place in the league.
The hosting Raiders took the top-ranked Knights to the limit. Terra Ceia owned a marginal 54-52 lead late in the fourth before Pungo had no option other than to put the visitors on the free-throw line. The Knights went a perfect 10-of-10 at the charity stripe down the stretch to claim the 12-point win.
The final result is a bit deceiving considering Terra Ceia enjoyed just a few, brief three-possession leads throughout the contest.
The contrasting offenses were apparent from the get go. It was like going on a ride with someone who doesn’t know how to drive stick. The Knights tried to push the tempo whenever they had the ball. When the Raiders took over, they’d slow it down with their half-court offense until a scoring opportunity presented itself.
“I just kept telling them that we’ve got to make the game fast,” Terra Ceia coach Roger Klaassen said. “That’s where we have an advantage. Let’s hand it to (Pungo). They rebounded with us. They got down and stopped us. It was a shooting match.”
It took both sides time to get going. Terra Ceia wrapped up the first quarter with a 9-7 lead.
“We stumbled out and missed some opportunities, but this is what it’s all about,” Klaassen said.
Logan Van Staalduienn put home three consecutive layups as Pungo took a 17-13 lead about midway through the second period. Then the Knights started to click with their flashy team chemistry. Ben Hubers grabbed a rebound at the rim and put it right back in to ignite a quick 8-0 run that saw Terra Ceia reclaim the lead, 21-17.
Hubers stepped up when Messiah Barnes got in foul trouble early on. He scored on a floater in transition and then knocked down a 3-pointer right before the buzzer to give Terra Ceia a 29-23 lead at halftime. He had 15 points for Terra Ceia, which was second only to Chase Furlough (16).
“I told them when the opportunity presents itself, somebody has got to step up,” Klaassen said. “Ben Hubers stepped up. He hit that big 3 at the end of the half. … That’s what it’s about: get the opportunity and go for it.”
Pungo didn’t let the late momentum swing carry over to the second half. Landon Woolard and Will Respess hit treys to help the Raiders tie the game at 33 apiece in the third quarter. The two led Pungo in scoring, combining for 28 points.
The home side was able to limit Terra Ceia’s success from behind the arc. The Knights were just 3-of-19 from 3-point range, but the shots went down at the right times. With Pungo breathing down their necks, Barnes hit a 3 and a pair of free throws to give Terra Ceia a 42-39 lead heading into the final period.
“I think we continue to build on what we saw tonight and continue to work on our defense,” Pungo coach Jason Adams said. “We didn’t really allow any big 3-pointers like they usually try to get to get on their runs.”
Respess tied the game twice in the fourth before Terra Ceia’s run at the free-throw line.
Even in losing, Pungo learned a lot and has gained momentum for the rest of its conference stretch. Terra Ceia’s 64 points is the least it has scored in a league contest thus far. Moreover, the Raiders took their toughest opponent so far to the wire.
“I’m just proud of how we competed,” Adams said. “A lot of people didn’t give us a chance because we hadn’t been tested. I think we proved we can play with Terra Ceia.”
The two will do battle once again in the regular-season finale.