Bland leads Cape Fear past Patrick Henry 87-81

Bland leads Cape Fear past Patrick Henry 87-81

Wilmington, NC - Cape Fear women's basketball rallied from a 13 point first half deficit to defeat Patrick Henry Community College, 87-81. TaKwana Bland finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists, while Destiny Campbell had 21 points, and 12 rebounds.

Despite the final score, the game looked in doubt for Cape Fear in the first half. Nikia Wallace kicked things off with a 3-pointer. It would be the only made bucket scored for either team in the opening two minutes, however, as both struggled to knock down shots. Cape Fear's defense remained strong, however, and they held the Patriots scoreless for the first four minutes of the game.

Patrick Henry began to get into a groove midway through the first, and tied the game at 7-7. They took the lead a minute later, as Cape Fear continued to struggle on the offensive end. Destiny Campbell finally broke the scoring drought with around two minutes remaining. It jump started their play on both ends, and they'd close the gap as the first quarter ended, trailing 14-11.

Cape Fear shot just 17.4 percent in the first, making only four field goals.

Things didn't start well for Cape Fear at the start of the second, as Patrick Henry went on a 12-4 run in the first two and a half minutes. They extended their lead to 28-15, and led by double digits for most of the quarter.

Despite a poor shooting first half, TaKwana Bland was aggressive attacking the hoop, and led the team with seven first half points. Cape Fear was able to chip away a bit as the half closed, trailing by just seven with a little under two minutes. But the Patriots responded with two consecutive 3-pointers, and ended the half leading 41-30.

Campbell came out aggressive in the third, scoring her team's first four points. The Sea Devils shot the ball much better, but the Patriots matched them on the other end, preventing a run in the early minutes.

While still down, Cape Fear played with more energy, showing signs they were not out of it. They focused on spreading the floor and getting the ball down low, feeding it to Campbell and Taylor Foulks.

The adjustments paid off, as they were able to tie the game at 50-50 with just over three minutes remaining in the third, and then take the lead following a 3-pointer from Jalessa Dillard.

The Patriots answered with seven straight to take a four point lead, but a 3-pointer by Christina Caesar, followed by a shot at the buzzer by Campbell gave Cape Fear a one point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The remainder of the game was highly competitive, with both teams exchanging leads. Bland gave the Sea Devils a two possession lead with roughly seven minutes remaining, putting the home team a bit of momentum. She continued to attack the hoop, and pushed Cape Fear's lead to eight with just under six minutes remaining. She was the catalyst for her team, as Caesar then opened things up by knocking down a 3-pointer, followed by a fast break layup by Wallace, all of which gave Cape Fear a 75-62 lead with 4:56 remaining.

Patrick Henry made one last push in the closing minutes, and cut Cape Fear's lead to five with just over a minute remaining. Campbell injured her ankle attempting a shot in transition, and the Patriots were able to cut the score to three. Wallace then made one of two free throws to give Cape Fear a four point lead, but Patrick Henry responded with a traditional three point play to get within one.

On the next possession, Bland drew a foul and knocked down both free throws. The Sea Devils made a stop on defense, which forced them to foul. Wallace knocked down both her free throws, putting the game out of reach.

Cape Fear's second half play was ultimately the difference tonight, but the team's poor start raised concerns from head coach Lori Drake after a good week of preparation. Ultimately, the second half turnaround happened once her team all got on the same page.

"We had to have a real heart to heart at halftime. We had three great practices this week and got better, and then we came out tonight and weren't better. Once we got it together, we were good."

One of the biggest second half adjustments was on the defensive end, where the Sea Devils switched to playing man-to-man. While it wasn't perfect, Drake believes it helped spark the comeback.

"We haven't played man-to-man since mid-December, so it looked a lot different. But they bought into it, and it won us the game."

Drake wanted to see better defense from her team heading into tonight, but it only came in stretches. For them to truly become a better defensive team, Drake states they need to play well on that end from the start, and recognize that they are almost always going to get their opponent's best game.

"It's got to start from the tip. Our kids have to understand that teams are coming after us. Teams that don't have a lot to lose, know that Cape Fear is at the top...and they're not going to back down."

The win improves their record to 16-4 on the season, and 11-2 in conference.

Their next game is scheduled for Tuesday, February 7th, where they will take on Wake Tech Community College at home. Tip off is schedule for 6:00 p.m.

Courtesy of Nick Denning