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Late rally falls short for Topsail boys

HAMPSTEAD | The Topsail boys basketball team fell behind early against a red hot start from visiting Croatan on Friday night. And the hole was just a bit too deep to climb out of during a late rally.

When the dust had settled, the Cougars made the bus ride home with a 59-55 victory. The result came despite a monster scoring night from Pirates forward Trevor Savidge, who finished with 29 points, including 22 in the second half.

"Trevor had a great game," Topsail coach Jeff Gainey said. "He played within himself, offensively and defensively.

"The (Austin) Saunders kid that he was guarding is one of the better players in our league, and I thought Trevor did a great job.

"We've got to continue to get better and I think we are."

Croatan got 20 points from JacQues Chambers and 16 from Mitchell Smith. Saunders finished with 11 points and nine rebounds.

The Cougars (12-2, 3-2 East Central) started on a blistering pace, outscoring the Pirates 21-11 in the first quarter. They carried a 32-16 lead into the break, on the heels of five first-half 3-pointers.

"The effort was there," Gainey said. "We dug ourselves too big of a hole.

"It's not going to come down to one play at the end. It's a combination of things throughout."

Topsail (6-7, 0-5 East Central) trailed 47-30 late in the third period before beginning the long climb back. With 18 seconds remaining, Jeremiah Bland drained a 3-pointer to cut the Croatan advantage down to 57-55.

With a scant few ticks left, Topsail gained possession, but a steal and layup by Chambers closed the door on the final score for the Cougars.

"Some people are going to look at it as one play at the end," Gainey said. "We're one possession away and then we turn it over. But I mean that's not the case.

"You go down 18 points and then you've got to fight back to get within two. We had exerted so much energy."