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Pinecrest basketball shows progress in tough loss
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Pinecrest Academy junior Adam Guard, center, scored a team-high 18 points, including a clutch 3-pointer in the fourth quarter that gave the Paladins a brief lead. - photo by Brian Paglia

The last time Pinecrest took on Fellowship Christian, back on Dec. 3, Fellowship won handily by 24—dominating Pinecrest in nearly every facet of the game. However, when the two teams clashed again on Friday, the re-match followed a much different script.

With 35 seconds left in regulation, Pinecrest trailed by just two points and had control of the ball. Adam Guard—who had already scored eight in the fourth quarter—put up a three-point attempt , but it rimmed out and was rebounded by Fellowship.

Roger Rickman would then knock down four straight free-throws for Fellowship (7-3), who held on for the victory, 50-44, in a non-region game.

While Pinecrest fell to 3-9 on the season, it was arguably their best effort thus far in 2013—one that illustrated how much this young team has grown in the last few weeks.

"To hang tough with [Fellowship] the whole game is a really big step for our boys," said Pinecrest head coach Jay Lynch. "Everyone hates moral victories, but we’re a young team and we’re making progress."

Guard led Pinecrest in scoring with 18 points and heated up at the right time. With Fellowship ahead by seven mid-way through the fourth quarter, Guard hit two key three-pointers to keep the contest within reach. While he was able to score eight points in the fourth, the rest of his team managed just five combined.

Even though Guard’s final bid to take the lead was unsuccessful, his efforts allowed Pinecrest to remain competitive for a full 32 minutes.

"I saw the shot was open so I took it," he said. "Some shots fall, some shots don’t. You can never stop shooting.

"We were well prepared for [Fellowship]. We scouted them a lot and we were ready for them … For us today, it ended in a loss, but we fought hard and we fought well. I’m proud of our team."

In addition to Guard, fellow junior Nick Palmer played well, dishing out seven assists and six points. Coach Lynch has been working with Palmer on distributing the ball, which he did well on Friday.

Freshman Sean Flanigan scored 11 points, and forward/center Michael Bruckner chipped in a team-high six rebounds.

"I thought we finally got our rotation down, we’re playing the right people at the right times," said Lynch. "We executed the sets we’ve been working on, and we were able to change defenses a few times throughout the game—a lot to build on."

Pinecrest will now trek down to Kissimmee, Fla. for the annual Brighthouse Tournament, which will begin for the Paladins on Dec. 27. The Paladins will then have a week off before playing Athens Christian on Jan. 4.

"A week off is good for the boys," Lynch said. "A lot of these guys played football, and so a week with their families will be good.

"Hopefully we’ll pick up where we left off, because the last six games we’ve made a lot of progress."

Lady Paladins fall

The Pinecrest Lady Paladins started strong on Friday against Fellowship Christian, ending the first quarter up 14-13 against a talented and more experienced opponent. For those first eight minutes, the two teams appeared to be evenly matched and destined for a close, hard-fought game.

Pinecrest was disturbing the ball the ball well, cutting through Fellowship’s half-court press and made their shots, playing some of their best basketball of the season.

Then everything fell apart.

Fellowship (8-1) went on a torrid 21-2 run at the start of the second stanza, as Pinecrest (1-11) fell apart at the seams. Fellowship would control the momentum for the rest of the game, and take down Pinecrest 54-33.

"I think we’re improving, and we’re improving every game, but that was a tough one," said head coach Theresa Guard. "But we got discouraged after going down in the second quarter."

Amanda Boyd was a bright spot for Pinecrest, scoring 11 points—exactly one-third of her team’s offensive output. Maggie Herd chipped in nine points, and Bailey Evans and Tessa Stubbs grabbed eight and seven rebounds, respectively.

Pinecrest will have time to regroup over Christmas break and will return to action on Jan. 3 at Lakeview Academy.

"They’re going to work a lot on their shooting, so they’ll have a lot of practice on that," said Guard. "We’ll come back fresh and ready to go."