HENSPTS-02-20-21 CCSvKVA1

Crossroads Christian basketball player Noah Brantley (center) puts the ball up over two Kerr-Vance Academy defenders during his team’s 65-43 victory on Friday evening, which advanced them into the Elite 8 of the NCISAA 1A Playoffs.

HENDERSON — The Crossroads Christian and Kerr-Vance Academy men’s basketball programs met for the third time on the 2020-21 season Friday evening as they both fought to secure a spot inside the Elite 8 of the NCISAA 1A Playoffs.

The status quo from the first two contests carried over into the third with CCS dominating an undermanned KVA squad, which powered them to a 65-43 victory and advanced them into the Elite 8 for the second time in three years under head coach Scottie Richardson.

“I thought we played great defense,” Richardson said. “I got great effort from the second team tonight, but that’s what happens in the state tournament. You never know who is going to step up off the bench.”

CCS showed off their superior size and athleticism in the first quarter, but missed opportunities underneath the rim kept the game close. The gap widened as the quarter came to a close when CCS finally started knocking down shots from all around the court.

Both sides encountered issues with generating offense in the second quarter until after an official timeout, as juniors Drew Rogers and Andres Prince started driving the ball inside for CCS while a handful of three-pointers from senior Asher Fulk propelled them to a 32-15 halftime lead.

Although KVA started the third quarter strong, they were unable to match CCS’ aggression and were forced to watch as Prince, Rogers, Fulk and others kept carving through their defense to solidify a CCS victory.

KVA head coach Brandon Dickerson knew that defeating CCS was going to be a difficult task for his team after previously losing to them by scores of 86-30 and 77-48, but he said that mistakes early in the game ended up dictating the overall outcome.

“Crossroads is a really good team,” Dickerson said. “They’ve had our number this year, but it’s just one of those things. We turned the ball over a few times and let them get some easy buckets, and that was the difference in the game.”

With the loss, KVA ends a season dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic 7-8, but Dickerson praised his small roster, particularly the senior class of Joel Lewis, Michael Holtzman, Chance Murphy and Coleman Merritt, for staying focused and persevering through the adversity.

“We have a family atmosphere here,” Dickerson said. “These guys come in every day and work hard. They are great teammates that care for one another, and I have to credit them for loving one another and always fighting for their brother.”

Friday was also the final night for Fulk and fellow CCS seniors Noah Brantley and Colby Taylor inside their home gymnasium, who got to celebrate one last win alongside their teammates and a small, but vibrant crowd ahead of a crucial matchup with Cape Fear Christian Academy.

CCS suffered a close 72-70 loss to Cape Fear Christian Academy in last year’s edition of the NCISAA 1A Playoffs before being dealt a lopsided 90-59 defeat by them to open this year. Richardson expects a tough challenge against Cape Fear, but is optimistic that his team can pull off the upset if they stick to their strengths as a program.

“[Cape Fear] is very loaded,” Richardson said. “They are No. 1 in the East for a reason. They’ve got size and athleticism, but we’re going to take some time to prepare and we’re meeting very early [today], so we’ll be ready.”

CCS will look to keep their quest for an NCISAA 1A title alive at 4 p.m. today when they travel to Erwin to face Cape Fear Christian Academy, which boasts talented players such as junior Cinque Lemon, who averages 16.6 points per game and 5.2 rebounds per game.