In the past two years, Olympic High’s boys basketball team has only lost once.
The Trojans, reigning N.C. 4A state champs, lost 73-54 to Ardrey Kell two weeks ago in a shocking loss that ended a 37-game win streak.
Olympic couldn’t wait for Monday’s rematch at the Wild Wing Cafe Hoops Classic. The Trojans, who won 41-40, started great, got a little shaky in the middle, but Olympic finished strong at the end. Trojans coach Ty Baumgardner said he got exactly what he wanted from his three games in four days.
“If you remember, the first time we played, I said hopefully we’ll learn a lot from that,” Olympic coach Ty Baumgardner said. “And that’s the thing that’s good for us. We did learn something, and somehow we found a way to win.”
Olympic (11-1) had to rally to beat Victory Christian Friday. Olympic had to rally to beat Charlotte Christian Saturday. And Monday, Olympic lost an early lead but made some big plays late to get its revenge on Ardrey Kell.
The Knights (10-4) were down 27-19 late in the first half, but came back after coach Mike Craft made a brilliant move to play a trick defense on Olympic’s CJ Jackson, named tournament MVP. Jackson had 15 of his team’s 27 first half points.
In the second half, Jackson didn’t score. In fact, Jackson didn’t get a shot attempt. With the most dangerous player on the court neutralized, Ardrey Kell rallied. Steven Santa Ana (12 points, 4 rebounds) and Collin Cooper (10 points) and Devin Cooper (9 points, 5 assists) began to heat up.
Ardrey Kell ended up with a 40-39 lead with 47 seconds left after Devin Cooper made a pair of free throws. Olympic’s Malik Constatine had a pretty follow-up of a teammate’s miss to give his team a 41-40 lead with 11 seconds left.
The Knights moved the ball in front of their bench and called time out.
There probably weren’t too many people in a packed gym that didn’t think Ardrey Kell coach Craft was setting up a play for anyone other than Santa Ana, the 2012-13 Southwestern 4A player of the year. Santa Ana ran to the left wing while Devin Cooper operated with the ball. Cooper didn’t look at Santa Ana, who was open.
Instead, Cooper drove. Cooper shot. Cooper got hit and knocked down. No whistles blew for a foul and the game ended.
“I don’t know” if that was a foul or not, Baumgardner said. “It’s on the other end from our bench so we couldn’t see. I always think the kids should decide it, though. It was a great high school game.”
Olympic ran its four-year record to 97-5, and all of a sudden, a very young team when the season began is looking more and more like a team that will be able to make a deep postseason run in February and March.
“You know,” Baumgardner said, “we found a way. We didn’t make shots. But these three games really matured some of our more inexperienced guys, and it’s a good way to get ready for conference play.”