Miguel Pineda scored 32 points to lead the First Presbyterian Christian Academy boys’ basketball team to an 88-83 win Tuesday in a huge region game against Frederica Academy at the St. James Sports Center.
The Georgia Independent School Association Class 2-AA clash likely was a preview of what the region- and state-title pictures could be, as FPCA, Frederica and Memorial Day are the three schools expected to battle for those top prizes.
Tuesday’s game didn’t disappoint the crowd at St. James. The Highlanders’ first-year head coach, Shane Smith, was recognized by the home fans for the work he has done after taking over the team after former head coach Ernie Walthour was killed.
“It felt great. They are one of our rivals. It was only our second home game, so we really wanted to come out and play a good game,” Smith said after the win, which moved the ’Landers to 9-2 overall and 2-0 in the region.
The Knights matched the Highlanders point for point and maintained a five-point lead at the close of the first quarter.
FPCA fought back to tie the game at 40-40, but the Knights hit a shot for a 42-40 lead at halftime.
FPCA made a run in the third to go up by eight when the Knights capitalized on steals off inbound passes and turnovers.
Adding a little salt to the wound, the visiting team nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer ending the third quarter for a 65-63 lead.
“We had some early turnovers in the game … I would say we were a little too anxious,” Smith said. “I know the kids were really excited about this game, and we tried to do too much early on … that kept them in the game.”
FPCA’s Richard Smith came off the bench to give the home team a big fourth-quarter spark. He scored six points from rebounds and went 2 for 2 at the free-throw line. His eight points in the fourth quarter built a critical cushion as the Knights started to rally.
FPCA took better care of the ball in the final four minutes. Pineda and Domonique Kirkley methodically fed the ball to teammates and dribbled away at the clock. With 28 seconds left, the Knights fouled Pineda and he nailed both free throws.
The Knights responded with a layup, but Pineda took his time with the ball, forcing the Knights to foul him again. He hit both free throws, and time expired before the Knights could mount another rally.
“In the final minutes of the game, I just reminded the kids that we were up,” Smith said. “I told them to spread the court and run some time off the clock … force them to foul us and knock down our free throws, which we did. We were 16 of 19 from the line.”
It was Pineda’s third game scoring 30 or more points. Kirkley finished the night with 17 points, Wallace Smith chipped in 12, Ahman Muhammed scored nine, Smith had eight, Michael Burnett added six and Frederick Heaggans scored four.
Pineda made three shots from behind the arc, and Kirkley hit two 3-pointers in the contest.
In Tuesday’s first game, the Lady ’Landers fell to Frederica, 47-15.
FPCA travels to Waynesboro tonight to play Edmund Burke Academy.
The girls’ game tips off first at 6.
FPCA — 13/27/23/25: 88
FA — 18/24/23/18: 83