CARY — The roars rising from the Green Hope student section, clad in pink Kay Yow Foundation T-shirts, kept building with each field goal and free throw as the final seconds ticked down.
The decibels reached a level only a true sports rivalry can generate as the Green Hope boys basketball team upset Panther Creek 56-51 in overtime Monday night at the Falcons’ gym.
They raised the roof when Quavis Johnson buried two free throws for a 55-51 two-score lead with 12 seconds left in the OT session. There hadn’t been a night like this all year for a sub-.500 Green Hope squad that was coming off probably its most dismal performance of the season, a 51-36 loss to Holly Springs three nights before.
How to explain such a 180-degree turnaround?
“The rivalry had a whole lot to do with it,” Green Hope coach John Green said. “Panther Creek is so close to us, and the kids know each other really well. Everybody knows each other well in our conference, but there’s something different about playing Panther Creek.”
Green Hope improved to 9-13 overall and 6-6 in the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference.
“It’s huge to beat them,” said senior John Nassif, who scored seven points. “Not only are they our rival, they’re one of the top teams in our conference. We needed to have this win if we’re going to have a chance to make the playoffs.”
When reminded that Green Hope’s upset cost Panther Creek a shot at an outright SWAC title, Nassif added, “That makes it even better.”
Panther Creek dropped to 17-5 overall and 9-3 in the SWAC, which allowed Apex (15-7, 11-1 SWAC) to clinch a share of the title with a two-game lead and two to play. (Apex beat Panther Creek head-to-head twice.)
Green said he felt another reason for the special effort was senior night. The fourth-year head coach has maintained former Green Hope coach Mickey Bissette’s tradition of starting seniors on senior night.
Nassif, Jimmy Gaffney, Jonah Saacks, Zyrus Johnson and Jeff Salchart showed no drop-off from the regular starting five in the first seven minutes of the opening quarter.
Panther Creek only led 11-10 after the first quarter to set the night’s tone. Green put his seniors back on the court to start the third quarter, and the Falcons opened a 37-34 lead entering the fourth quarter.
“We’ve been playing together since middle school, so we have a lot of chemistry,” Nassif said. “We were looking forward to this night and playing together. We have complete confidence in everybody in our class.”
Johnson led Green Hope with 11 points. Juan Munoz led Panther Creek with 15.
In the first half of the girls-boys double-header, Green Hope (10-11, 7-5 SWAC) won 46-33 over Panther Creek (12-10, 5-7 SWAC) to keep alive its hopes for a playoff berth. If the playoffs had started Wednesday, Green Hope would be one of the last teams in.
Brandi Mosser scored 15 points and Allie Winiecki scored 11 for the Falcons. Panther Creek’s Shotomei Greaux scored 11.