Christian Life Academy trailed for most its boys basketball game at Southern Lab on Tuesday night, but once it got the lead it knew how to finish.
Trailing by six points entering the fourth quarter, Christian Life took the lead midway through the quarter and went on to rally for 59-56 win over its District 7-1A rival.
Johnathan Stone led Christian Life (22-5, 8-0) with 18 points. R.J. Hertzog scored 16, and Malik Harrison and Tremel Johnson added eight apiece.
Ray White (14), Trent Flowers (12) and Samuel Forest (10) all hit double figures for Southern Lab (12-16, 6-2), but the Kittens went cold in the fourth quarter.
“I think we got caught giving up long rebounds, and we let people get behind us,” Southern Lab coach Lonnie Machen said of his team’s fourth-quarter troubles.
“We gave up six or eight real easy points that dissolved our lead. There were too many mistakes down the stretch. We beat ourselves.”
In the fourth quarter, Southern Lab made 4 of 12 from the field while CLA hit 5 of 7.
“(Southern Lab) did not let us get comfortable on offense, and they were making shots early,” CLA coach Mark Cascio said. “We knew once they started going cold a little we had to rebound. They’re such a good rebounding team.”
White scored on a drive to the basket giving Lab a 48-40 lead seconds into the fourth quarter, but Christian Life hit the defensive backboards outscoring the Kittens 12-3 over the next four minutes to take its first lead.
Hertzog started the run with a pair of free throws. Harrison and Tim Holland each added layups after getting behind the Lab defenders following quick outlet passes.
Khalid Smith fed Hertzog for an inside basket as Christian Life tied the game for the first time, 50-50, with 3:44 left to play. Tremel Johnson’s free throws put the Crusaders on top 52-51, and Hertzog scored inside a minute as they took the lead for good at 54-53.
Christian Life made 11 of 13 free throws in the fourth including 5 of 7 in the final minute to keep Southern Lab at bay.
Marquise Richard’s 3-pointer with 13 seconds left got Lab within 58-56. Johnson made 1 of 2 free throws, and White was off the mark with a 3-pointer before time ran out.
“Once we got some rebounds, we were able to get into a rhythm offensively, which calmed us down and let us stay poised,” Cascio said.
With a packed Southern Lab gym providing a playoff-type atmosphere, the Kittens raced out to a 10-2 first-quarter lead. White and Forest each scored putback baskets to fuel the run.
Flowers 3-pointer put Lab on top 13-4, but Stone had a pair of late baskets helping Christian Life pull within 15-10 after one quarter.
Harrison’s 3-pointer late in the second cut Lab’s lead to 27-25. Hertzog had a chance to tie the score but missed the front end of a one-and-one.
Flowers converted a three-point play as Lab led 30-25 at halftime.
“We know its always going to be close (playing Christian Life),” Machen said. “Each team is capable of winning.
“They handled our pressure. They handled our crowd. It’s a tough loss, but we learn from this because its not like we lost by 40 or 30 or 20 points.”