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Olympic 61, Harding 52

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Late rally pushes Olympic past Harding

By Bill Kiser
Correspondent

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Just a month ago, Olympic’s boys’ basketball team was pushed to the wire in a one-point overtime victory against Harding.

The Rams pushed the Trojans again Friday night – until Olympic’s players decided to do something about it.

B.J. Gladden and Jevon Patton combined for 22 points in the second half as the Trojans rallied to beat Harding 61-52 and remain Mecklenburg County’s only undefeated team.

Gladden finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Patton also had 17 points for Olympic (20-0, 10-0), the No. 1 team in the Observer’s Sweet 16 rankings. The Trojans trailed the Rams (10-9, 5-5) by as many as 11 points in the first half.

“We didn’t come out ready to play,” Gladden said. “It was their senior night, and they came out really hyped.

“At the half, coach (Ty Baumgardner) said we needed to match their intensity, really bring it up. We let them think they were in this game.”

The win kept an important streak alive for the Trojans, extending their regular-season conference winning streak of 53 games, which dates back to the 2008-2009 season.

“Over the years, games between us and Harding are always knock-down, drag-out fights,” Baumgardner said. “That’s what we always expect.”

And that’s what Olympic got in the first half. Harding closed out the first quarter with a 10-point run to lead 18-10, then pushed it to 34-23 with 1 minute, 17 seconds left in the second quarter on Aaron Linton’s steal and layup.

The Rams wound up leading 34-25 at the halftime break, but the pace was taking its toll.

“That probably drained them a lot more than it would in any other game,” Harding coach Walter Aikens said. “That’s why I was trying to get them to slow it down and relax. But we had a comfortable lead, and the guys were trying to build on it.”

Instead, Olympic fought back in the second half, tying the score at 44 by the end of the third quarter. The Trojans then took control in the final period, outscoring the Rams 15-4 over the final six minutes.

“We weren’t making good decisions in the first half,” Gladden said. “But in the second half, we made good decisions, we got turnovers and hit shots. We just played harder than they did.”

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