CONCORD – Naturally, any number of plays could be dissected for their significance in a close basketball game. But when the outcome is determined by a four-point margin, a thrilling five-point swing in the middle of the fourth quarter could easily be labeled as the difference-maker.
As the Jay M. Robinson boys were slowly chipping away at a deficit that once reached 18 points, a hard-charging Mark Chambers received a long pass from Justin Boateng and powered up for a layup. As he laid it off the glass, Cox Mill’s Quave Propst-Allison slapped it back into the backboard away from the rim.
A Chargers teammate retrieved the loose ball, and it eventually got back to Propst-Allison, who was wide-open on the left wing. He drilled a 3-pointer and stopped on his follow-through to admire the results while Cox Mill coach Ty Johnson called a momentum-securing timeout.
Three minutes later, the Chargers had a 63-59 victory, the kind a team feels fortunate to get on the road early in the conference schedule. Cox Mill, third in the Cream of Cabarrus rankings, improved to 13-2 overall and 2-0 in the South Piedmont 3A. Jay M. Robinson dropped its second straight game to fall to 8-7, 0-2.
“It’s conference play in January and February on the road,” said Johnson, Cox Mill’s first-year coach. “No lead is safe. We’re a young team, we have two seniors. I think we got complacent after Propst-Allison’s 3. Once we went up 12, we looked at the scoreboard and took our foot off the gas.”
Jay M. Robinson trailed 62-57 with fewer than 15 seconds remaining and executing a two-shot free-throw opportunity that would have made it a one-possession game. But the Bulldogs missed both attempts, effectively ending their comeback bid.
The 49-31 advantage Cox Mill built late in the third quarter was aided by a 10-0 run near the end of the second period and stretched by the Chargers’ opportunistic play to open the second half. The third quarter had its own five-point swing that went in Cox Mill’s favor, started by a missed dunk attempt forced by Jay M. Robinson’s Boateng.
Similar to the Charger’s fourth-quarter. momentum-shifting burst, Cox Mill ended up with a loose ball that found an open shooter on the left side of the frontcourt. This time, it was Chris Hunter who drilled a 3-pointer from the corner. When Karon Boyd, who led Cox Mill with 16 points and eight rebounds, converted a layup with 2:26 left in the period, the Chargers led 49-31.
Senior guard Josh Abee, who scored 11 of Jay M. Robinson’s 13 points in the third quarter and finished with 16, hit a short jumper in the lane and later converted two free throws to cut the deficit to 51-37 entering the final quarter.
Boateng, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer at nearly 20 points a game, scored only one point before the fourth quarter, mostly because he was assessed his third personal foul fewer than five minutes into the game and had to be benched. But the senior guard, who finished with 13 points and six rebounds, ignited Jay M. Robinson’s comeback, making a dunk and three free throws as the Bulldogs trailed 53-44 with 3:48 left in the game.
That’s when Propst-Allison’s 3-pointer followed his block of Chambers’ layup attempt on the floor’s other end and gave Cox Mill a 56-44 lead – a play not without controversy.
Jay M. Robinson coach Lavar Batts Sr. thought it should have been ruled goal-tending and was not content with the explanation he received from officials for why it wasn’t.
“I don’t usually talk about refs to the media, but the craziest thing happened” said Batts. “I asked about that particular situation. All three refs, in different occasions, told me that wasn’t their call. I was baffled because I was trying to figure out how three guys say the same exact thing. It has to be somebody’s call.
“That was unfortunate, but I really thought that was a big twist in that fourth quarter because that layup would have cut it to seven (points), but (the Cox Mill lead) went back up to 12.”
Just like that key play, the game was played at a rapid pace. Both teams played lockdown, man-to-man defense, often extending their defense to full court. Cox Mill forced 28 turnovers, including five steals by guard Bailey Gentile.
Cox Mill senior Wesley Poindexter scored 11 of his 14 points in the first half. Propst-Allison finished with nine points, seven rebounds and three steals.
Chambers added 11 points and six rebounds for the Bulldogs.
On Friday, Cox Mill hosts Concord, while Robinson travels to Northwest Cabarrus, which is also looking for its first conference win.
Cox Mill 19 16 16 12 – 63
J.M. Robinson 12 12 13 22 – 59
COX MILL – Propst-Allison 9, Hunter 7, Morgan 3, Wesley Poindexter 14, Karon Boyd 16, Gentile 7, Riddle 3, Baker 4
JAY M. ROBINSON – Justin Boateng 13, Josh Abee 16, Reed 7, Richardson 3, Kelley-Little 5, Geerts 4, Mark Chambers 11