The two best boys basketball teams in WNC squared off last week in a matchup that lived up to the billing. Both Asheville Christian Academy and Christ School have been ranked in the Maxpreps top 30 in the state for most of the year.
The two programs haven’t shied away from playing a challenging schedule either. Christ School entered the contest with the toughest schedule in North Carolina while ACA has played the 7th toughest schedule in the state this season.
Two weeks ago, the teams played a game that came down to the wire as ACA’s Caleb Mills hit a buzzer beater from the top of the key at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime. However, Christ School managed to hold on for a one-point win. In last week’s game the Lions’ Raishaun Brown hit his own buzzer beater at the end of regulation but this time it was good enough to give the Lions a 69-67 victory.
ACA got off to a hot start bottling up the high-powered offense from Christ School and executing efficiently. Christ School’s ESPN Top 20 player in the junior class, Jalen Leque, got to the rim on a couple of occasions early but was met by ACA’s twin towers, Justin Tene (6’9”) and Elochukwu Eze (6’10”) and was denied each time.
The Lions jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead before the Greenies could get their first points on the board. But Christ School leaned in defensively picking up their pressure and slowly chipped away at the lead. It was the Greenies defense that ruled the second quarter and at the halftime break the score was tied 22-22.
In the second half, the Lions again found a groove offensively. Junior Raishaun Brown nailed a three pointer in transition off a perfect ball fake and then on the next possession found his classmate Caleb Mills for a three pointer to give the Lions a ten-point lead which they maintained throughout most of the second half.
With under two minutes to play the Lions led by nine points but the Greenies had one more rally in them. Norrance Berry and Brandon Stone both hit three pointers in the closing moments to close the ACA gap to three points and then with just 12 seconds remaining Justice Ajogbor hit two free throws to tie the game at 67.
The Lions got the ball into Brown’s hands as the clock ticked down. With four seconds remaining he received a ball screen from Max Spurling, dribbled past his defender and from just inside the free throw line pulled up and knocked down the game winning jumper as the final horn sounded.
With just a week left in the regular season the Lions are 16-7 overall and 5-1 in conference play. The Lions will likely draw a top 3 seed in the upcoming NCISAA 2A state tournament.
By Jonathan Bennett