Knights narrowly survive Falls Lake, 58-55

Jan. 12—CREEDMOOR — Despite a dominant start, the Vance Charter Knights just etched out a narrow 58-55 victory over the Falls Lake Firebirds on Thursday night.

Freshman Nick Pentoney guided his team with 15 points and a plethora of dimes to sophomore bigman Gary Wilkins — who finished with 22, but Falls Lake Rallied after getting rocked in the first quarter.

"I've always played up my whole life, so the term 'freshman' is not really a big deal to me — it's just basketball at the end of day," said the Vance Charter point guard.

Pentoney flew around the court, picking up every ball handler at half court and organizing his team's defense in dead balls. Undersized as a high school hooper, Pentoney plays with heart, drawing inspiration from Jevon Carter, Isiah Thomas, and other small point guards who play with their heart on their sleeve.

Despite admitting his three-point performance "could have been better," having a green light to shoot at any time is a huge part of this team's identity.

"You can't score if you don't shoot," said Knights head coach and former Wake Forest guard Teron Downey. "Good things happen when you play for each other."

Entering the fourth quarter, looking to win by "any means necessary," the Knights "buckled-down" in their man-to-man defense, taking pride in the ability to get a stop.

"You can change up defense, and go zone. But it's telling your team 'I'm scared that we can't get a stop,' " said Downey. "And I'm a competitor, so we're going to get stops when we need them."

After a three-pointer put the Firebirds up three, Pentoney drilled a three of his own to tie the game. Then, he tattoos a bounce pass to Wilkins, threading the needle between two defenders. Wilkins missed it, but the freshman guard reestablishes position on the baseline after flying out of bounds, to secure the offensive rebound and another chance for his team.

After narrowly missing his fourth interception, Pentoney again fed it to Wilkins, who this time, was able to convert. On the next possession, Pentoney coughed it up, but an ensuing travel call drew boos and jeers from the Falls Lake crowd. When a Pentoney snatch-back dribble sent Hawkins to the deck, half of the Vance Charter visiting section stood up to point and laugh. Pentoney continued to cook, up three with 15 seconds left.

Far from a sure thing, missed free throws left the door open for the Firebirds, with head coach Sherard Johnson calling a timeout to prepare for a last second heave, needing three points with under three seconds. The prayer was unanswered, and the Knights barely squeak past the now 6-13 Creedmoor-based team.

This young, confident Vance Charter team (5-6) will travel to Durham next week to take on the Excelsior Flying Lions.