CHARLOTTE – The Cannon boys basketball team capped off an incredible regular season with an even more impressive undefeated conference record, but it didn’t come easily, as the Cougars needed a fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Charlotte Christian Knights, 58-55, on the road Friday night.
“It was a dog fight of a win,” said Cannon coach Che Roth. “You don't come into Charlotte Christian and hope they lay down. Any time you can win (here), we’ll take it.”
It’s the first Charlotte Independent Schools Athletic Association championship for the Cream of Cabarrus second-ranked Cougars in program history. They now head into the playoffs with a 24-6 overall record, 10-0 in the CISAA. They wait to see if they get a first-round bye or a two-round bye.
For a majority of Friday’s game, Cannon and Charlotte Christian traded punches. Tied at halftime, neither team held a lead bigger than three points in the third quarter, but a last-second bucket gave the Knights a 42-40 lead heading into the final quarter.
Cannon senior guard Jaylen Dibble started the fourth quarter with a free throw to make it 42-41, but a 7-0 Knights run made it 49-41, the largest lead for either team so far. After that, Cannon woke up.
Sophomore guard Jaden Bradley, who scored a team-high 20 points, got things going with four straight points on a layup and two free throws. Junior swingman Jarvis Moss stole a pass and finished it to cut the deficit to 49-47.
Charlotte Christian then nailed a 3-pointer from the corner to make it 52-47 with 4 minutes,16 seconds left. From that point on, the Cougars’ defense took over, only allowing one made field goal the rest of the game.
“Our defensive pressure (was the difference),” said Roth. “We sped them up. We played to their youth in the backcourt, and we got key stops and fed off our energy.”
After a Dibble 3-pointer, the Cougars defense forced three straight steals, converting one of those turnovers into two points by Bradley to tie the game at 52-52. The biggest steal came from Dibble with 1:30 left. After pressuring a Knights player, he slipped and fell, but he still managed to steal the ball while on the ground and pass it to his teammate.
“Our team needed a play,” said Dibble. “Anything I could do to get it, I had to do.”
Calling a timeout, Roth drew up a play for the Cougars to try and take their first lead of the game since midway through the third quarter. Bradley followed his coach’s play perfectly, driving the lane and finishing it with a tough layup for a 54-52 lead.
“We wanted isolation and put him in the middle of the floor with a ball screen,” said Roth. “Elijah (Ormiston) held the screen just long enough to get (Bradley’s) hips and shoulders past the defender, and Jaden is dangerous when he has two feet in the paint.”
Bradley is ranked as the No. 1 point guard in the Class of 2022 by most recruiting outlets and already has scholarship offers from major college programs. According to ESPN national recruiting analyst Paul Biancardi, Bradley tonight is scheduled to take an unofficial visit to North Carolina, which plays host to Duke in what is considered the biggest rivalry game in college basketball.
After Bradley's bucket, the Knights tried to push the tempo up the court, and Ormiston stopped everything with a key block, where he basically snatched the ball from the shooter’s hand. Ormiston followed that with a layup, but a quick basket on the other end made it 56-54 with 19 seconds left.
Trying to break the Knights’ press, Moss dribbled past half court, but he mistakenly passed it back, causing a backcourt violation with 15.3 seconds.
With 7.1 seconds, the Knights drew a foul but only made one of two free throws to make it 56-55. After a Knights foul, Cannon’s D.J. Nix sank two huge free throws to make it 58-55.
Charlotte Christian had one last gasp with 0.6 seconds left near its basket. Off the inbounds play, the Knights tossed it to Peter Lash. He threw up quick a 3-pointer, but he left it just short.
“It’s what we need going into playoffs to make a run,” said Roth. “Great teams find ways to win, and we’re heading to a stretch where we’re getting everyone’s best shot, and we need to be ready.”
Cannon 13 13 14 18 -- 58
Charlotte Christian 10 16 16 13 -- 55
CANNON – Jaden Bradley 20, D.J. Nix 12, Jaylen Dribble 11, Jarvis Moss 11, Ormiston 4
CHARLOTTE CHRISTIAN -- Bryce Cash 16, Peter Lash 13, Jones 9, Drees 8, Hardy 6, Nicholson 3