It safe to say that it’s heating up in Piedmont Athletic Conference boys’ basketball.
Teams are chasing Providence Grove with a couple of weeks to play, but it’s clear the Patriots might not be in cruise control.
“We’re banged up,” Providence Grove coach Wes Luther said. “Who can survive the longest? Hopefully, we’re going to keep grinding it out.”
An example of the challenges that exist came with last week’s 55-52 escape at Southwestern Randolph.
The Cougars made it difficult for much of the night on the first-place Patriots, who cranked up their defense at opportune times.
“They turned up the pressure a little bit and really got after us on the perimeter,” Southwestern Randolph coach Matt Kiser said. “We allowed their pressure to bother us a little bit. Those were good adjustments that they made.”
With a cluster of teams in pursuit, the Patriots can’t afford to let their focus wander.
“I keep telling them don’t even think of one game at a time,” Luther said. “Just think of one quarter at a time.”
Southwestern Randolph could factor into how the pecking order unfolds near the top of the standings, particularly if the Cougars have pull off an upset or two down the stretch.
“Being right there at the end, that proves to our guys (that we can compete),” Kiser said. “I know it’s frustrating for them because we come out on the wrong end of so many of these games.”
Staying within range
Meanwhile, Trinity and Uwharrie Charter Academy staged a clash to see which team will be the top contender to first-place Providence Grove across the final two weeks of the regular season.
It took overtime for Trinity to pull out a 66-63 road victory against UCA.
“It’s huge,” Trinity coach Tim Kelly said of aiding the positioning in the standings for his team.
Trinity’s Dylan Hodges sent the game to overtime with a basket in the waning seconds of regulation. That capped a rally from a 10-point hole in the fourth quarter.
“Once it got down to five, it’s anybody’s game if you make good plays,” Kelly said. “We just hung together and started doing the things we’ve worked on in practice.”
Kelly said he liked how his team displayed a scrappy approach.
“We really hit the boards hard in overtime. We’re not really big,” he said. “We made some things happen.”
The Bulldogs finished with a 43-33 rebounding advantage.
Also by the end, Dominic Payne’s 27 points provided the biggest boost, while Trace Moffitt added 14 points and Aiden Blakely had 10 points.
“Dominic really stepped up and started competing,” Kelly said.
UCA’s balance scoring included 14 points apiece from Alijah Barker and Pierce Leonard, 13 points from Ashton Troutman and 12 points from Dawson Dunn.
The outcome avenged UCA’s 61-54 victory from December.
Note of the week
The undefeated Randleman girls scored the first 17 points in last week’s 63-19 victory at Eastern Randolph.