Wilmington, NC - Cape Fear men's basketball rallied after a poor first half, but came up short against Spartanburg Methodist, losing 89-83. Trae Bryant led the team with 30 points and four rebounds.
Despite the final scoreline, it was all Spartanburg in the first half.
The Pioneers jumped out to an early 8-0 lead, knocking down two open 3-pointers in the process. Jacque Brown ended the run with a 3-pointer of his own, but Spartanburg continued to be aggressive on offense, and pushed their lead to 9. Cape Fear was able to get within three on two occasions, but a 12-0 run gave them a 26-11 lead midway through the first half.
Cape Fear found early success from the 3-point line, making three of their first four, but struggled elsewhere, only making one field goal from within the arc in the first nine minutes of the half. Their shooting improved as the half wore on, but they were unable to cut into the score.
Spartanburg pushed their lead to 19 with a minute remaining in the half. After a bit of back and forth, Bryant knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to go into halftime trailing 49-33.
Turnovers were a problem in the half. 19 of the Pioneers 49 points in the first half came off of 10 turnovers from the Sea Devils.
Along with turnovers, Cape Fear struggled defending the 3-point line, allowing Spartanburg to shoot 8-16 from beyond the arc.
After allowing two buckets to start the second half, Cape Fear found its feet defensively, which helped start a 13-6 run in the first five minutes. They began to chip away, getting the deficit to 9, then six, and finally two with 11 minutes remaining.
Bryant helped lead the comeback, scoring 20 second half points. He attacked the hoop aggressively, finding a lot of success in the spread offense.
But Spartanburg was able to stall the run and maintain a small lead into the final 10 minutes. CFCC hung around, but with 5:15 remaining, found themselves trailing by 10. The Sea Devils made a late run, however, cutting the score to five with under two minutes remaining, but time had become a factor.
Brown, who finished with 19 points, knocked down a 3-pointer with 1:07 remaining to make it a four point game. After the Pioneers knocked down two free throws on the other end, Bryant made it a four point game again. A chance to make up ground opened after Spartanburg made just one of two the next time down, but they were unable to convert.
While coming up short, Cape Fear played much better in the second half. Head coach Ryan Mantlo was happy his team came back, but also felt they gave themselves too much to overcome.
"I thought we battled, but against a good team you can't build that big of a hole." Mantlo pointed out that letting teams have a lead has happened too often this season, which often results in them relying on a heroic comeback. He believes his team needs to be tougher if they are going to get over the hump against teams like Spartanburg.
"I don't think we're tough enough to do our jobs right now, I think we rely on our talent instead of each other, and until we do that we're going to be up and down."
The Sea Devils drop to 20-7 on the season, and 4-5 in conference play. Their next game is Wednesday, February 22nd, where they will take on conference rival Brunswick Community College on the road at 7:00 p.m.
Courtesy of Nick Denning