First Presbyterian Christian Academy did a lot of things right Thursday night, but Bethesda took advantage of Highlander turnovers and hit free throws down the stretch for a 70-65 win.
“The games we have lost we have lost in the last five minutes and that is what happened to us tonight,” FPCA coach Ernie Walthour Jr. said.
The Highlanders defeated Bethesda by a bucket earlier this season on the road and from the tipoff Thursday it looked like FPCA would earn a second victory. Highlander guard Herbert Roberts scored off a transition and minutes later drained a 3-pointer to give FPCA a 9-0 lead midway through the first quarter. Both teams played a fast-paced, physical game, yielding a high foul count early and impacting the Highlanders’ inside game.
“Our big man, Ahmad Muhammad got into foul trouble early and that hurt us on the boards. He was a major factor in the last game against Bethesda by grabbing 20 boards,” Walthour said.
Bethesda jumped back into the game, trailing FPCA 15-14 at the end of the first quarter.
First Presbyterian hit a pair of 3-point shots early in the second quarter to keep Bethesda at bay. The Highlanders led 34-28 at the half.
First Presbyterian’s guard play dominated the third quarter. Highlander point guard Chris Guilfo drained two 3-pointers early in the second half and FPCA maintained a 56-47 lead at the end of the quarter.
Bethesda kept chipping away at the lead in the fourth quarter and by the last three minutes of the game FPCA was clinging to a 61-59 lead. Forcing FPCA to make bad decisions, Bethesda took the lead in the final minute and held on.
“We had really good guard play at times, but in the last minutes we just did not take care of the basketball the way we needed to. This has been our nemesis all year long. We have to learn how to finish games. Our guards do a good job, but they are used to playing up tempo and we don’t always make the right decisions. But more experience will teach us to slow down the ball in tight games late in the game,” Walthour said.
Guilfo led the Highlanders with 19 points. Tevin Wormack and Ahmad Muhammad finished with 10 points each.
First Presbyterian’s record stands at 6-3 and 2-1 in region play.
“We are getting near the halfway point of the season. We have played really well at times during the first part of the season, but for us to be successful in the region and in the post season the most important thing for us to do is to learn how to finish a ball game in the last five minutes,” Walthour said.
Bethesda 70, FPCA 65
Bethesda 14 14 21 21-70 FPCA 15 19 22 9-65
FPCA- C. Guiflo 19, T. Wormack 10, A. Muhammad 10, H. Roberts 9, D. Streeter 9, R. Smith 6, D. Kirkley 2.