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Knights vanquish Warriors to reach semifinals

By LAIEKE ABEBE

For the Daily News

BELHAVEN — The Terra Ceia boys basketball team opened play in the Tarheel Independent Conference Tournament at Pungo Christian Academy Monday night with a thorough victory, defeating Lawrence Academy, 63-28, to advance to the semifinals of the conference tournament.

Terra Ceia (13-7, 10-2 1A TIC) came into Monday’s tournament-opening game ready to compete on both ends of the floor and it certainly showed.

“I was proud of how we finished the game on Friday,” Terra Ceia head coach Roger Klaassen said of his team’s loss to Northside prior to beginning the tournament. “We were only outscored by two in the second half of that game. I told them to bring that same energy into this game and we didn’t want to leave any doubt early on. We played outstanding defense and took advantage of our opportunities in a big game for us.”

The speed of the Knights was too much for Lawrence Academy (0-17, 0-12 1A TIC) from start to finish. The Knights got off to a 10-0 start before the Warriors called an early first-quarter timeout. It wasn’t enough to get them going, as Terra Ceia led 18-2 at the end of the first quarter.

The play of Matt and Alex Van Staalduinen, along with Gunner Couch, set the tone for Klaassen’s team. In addition, the defense played at a very high level, and the Warriors never seemed to get going in the first half. Because of these things, the Knights led 34-8 at halftime.

Lawrence Academy didn’t go out without a fight in the second half cutting its deficit to 19, but Terra Ceia made sure the Warriors never got closer. The Knights, who don’t have a single senior on their roster, showed poise and maturity in handling the early flurry from the Warriors in the third quarter.

In the end, Terra Ceia pushed its lead to over 30 points midway through the fourth quarter and led from start to finish. The sophomore guard duo of Couch and Matt Van Staalduinen scored 26 points and 18 points, respectively. Alex Van Staalduinen added nine for the Knights, who needed this win to have a better chance at making the state tournament.

Terra Ceia will next play in the tournament semifinals Friday night and will face the winner between Albemarle School and Northeast Academy. The varsity, JV, and middle school TIC tournaments are being held at Pungo Christian all week with the championship games being played Saturday.