APEX — Apex girls basketball coach Jay Huffman may never say this sentence the rest of his life about an opponent’s 34 points and 15 rebounds: “It’s funny that I’m excited about that.”
It makes sense. For one, Apex came away with the 68-62 Southwest Wake Athletic Conference win on Tuesday night, and all plans seem to have gone well when on the winning end.
But almost all of Azura Stevens’ points came from offensive rebounds which forced Cary to run its offense through other players, and only Meredith Courtney (15 points) reached double figures in addition to Stevens.
Apex’s Mia Castagnero (18 points, six rebounds) shadowed Stevens, often with the help of teammate Emily Sasser. They even boxed out in tandem and, on occasion, needed a third defender to help make sure Cary didn’t get the ball to the Duke recruit.
“We tried different defenses, and the one that seemed to work the best was the triangle-and-two,” Castagnero said. “Changing those up helped a lot, and I felt we were successful.”
It also helped that the Cougars (11-2, 3-1), ranked No. 4 in The News & Observer top 15, shot well from outside. Apex made five 3-pointers against the No. 7 Imps (10-3, 2-2).
“We had been shooting very poorly from 3 on the season, only about 27 percent,” Huffman said. “Cary caught us on the wrong night when we finally lit it back up.”
Cary trailed 29-21 at halftime and trailed by double-digits for most of the second half but got as close as four in the final minute.
“We found a little energy that maybe we didn’t know we had there,” Cary coach Patrick Daly said.
“We put some points up on the board, but we’re not holding teams to what we want to hold them to. And that’s ultimately what did us in tonight. ... We did some good things but, defensively, if we can’t stop anybody it’s going to be a long night.”
Apex’s Joelle Deese had 10 points, Sam “Scoop” Curcuru had 12, and Tiffany Finley had 11. The balanced attack has made Apex hard to defend.
Even without Aliya Ruffin due to a turned ankle, Apex had more than enough weapons.
“It’s awesome, but it also makes us work even harder for starting spots, for playing time, for everything,” Deese said.
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps