CARY — The temperature never got above 25 degrees outside, but Apex guard T.J. Wells played at about 125 degrees Tuesday night against Southwest Wake Athletic Conference rival Cary in Charles H. Adams Gymnasium.
Wells poured in 29 points, dished out five assists and had nine steals as the Cougars (7-6, 4-0) remained unbeaten in conference play with a decisive 76-55 victory.
“T.J. Wells was phenomenal,” Cary coach Allan Gustafson said. “Phenomenal. P.H.E.N.O.M.E.N.A.L. I thought he dominated the game both offensively and defensively.”
The victory was Apex’s seventh in a row and ninth in the last 10 meetings over the Imps (7-6, 1-3).
“We started off the year kind of rough, but we’re starting to get into our groove,” Wells said. “That’s always good. As long as we win games, get ready for the state playoffs and improve, I’m happy. That’s all I want.”
Wells and fellow senior guard T.J. Evans took control of the game after Cary led 10-6 midway through the first quarter. Wells had a steal that led to a layup, Evans (16 points) later drilled a baseline jumper, and Wells sank two free throws as Apex took a 16-10 lead to the second quarter.
Wells continued to score, getting nine points in a row and scoring 11 of the Cougars’ 20 second-quarter points. He pushed the halftime lead to 36-23 with a nifty drive and spinning layup at the buzzer.
“He was just incredible out on the perimeter, making deflections and getting steals,” Apex coach Dave Neal said. “Offensively, he was as good as I’ve ever seen him. He’s knocking down 3s, and they can’t stay in front of him (so) he’s penetrating and setting up his teammates. He was spectacular on both ends of the floor.”
Wells was at his best in the fourth quarter, draining three 3-pointers and scoring on another driving layup to finish off his night.
“I try to play hard every game and try to get some shots up, and I just got hot today,” Wells said. “Hit some shots and got to the basket, and I kind of went with it. Got some steals also, and that helped. I didn’t change my game, but shots fell for me, which is always good.”
Cary had some good moments in the second half, knocking down 14 of 24 shots from the floor, but Apex had an answer for every run.
“Against a team of Apex’s caliber, you cannot put yourself down 13 at halftime,” Gustafson said. “We got ourselves behind the 8-ball. We played a much better second half, but we just had a hard time stopping them from scoring.”
C.J. Lyon (16 points) and Cory Gensler each scored a pair of buckets on four consecutive Cary possessions early in the fourth quarter, but they all came after Apex hit open 3-pointers. The Cougars went 6-for-7 from long range in the fourth, but that didn’t stop Neal from calling a timeout and chastising his players for not getting back on defense.
“We know that Cary likes to push it after makes, and we just simply could not get back and prevent them from getting to the rim,” Neal said. “They were getting layups, they were getting and-ones. I guess that’s the only negative I saw out of the game tonight.”
Apex puts up its undefeated conference record Friday night against Panther Creek, which is also unbeaten in the SWAC.
“We’ve got our work cut out Friday night,” Neal said. “They’re a really good basketball team. We’ve taken several lumps with a tough non-conference schedule. We’ve played some really good teams. I don’t think (Wells and Evans) thought they’d be 7-6 right now, but I keep telling them over and over and over that the only ones that matter are the SWAC games, and we’re 4-0 right now, so hopefully we can keep it rolling.”