Senior Justin Jenkins netted a game-high 28 points to lift Wings Academy (10-0) over Dixie Heights (5-4) 69-64 in a tightly-contested opening game of the National Division Wednesday afternoon at the 20th annual STOP-DWI Holiday Classic.
In a back-and-forth affair that witnessed ten lead changes, a tough turnaround baseline jumper by Wings Academy senior Steven Gomez deadlocked the game at 56-56 with 4:30 remaining. From there Wings Academy would not look back as a jumper by Jenkins out of a timeout pushed their lead to three, 62-59, with just over two minutes to play.
Touted Dixie Heights guard Brandon Hatton, one of Tuesday night's three-point contest champions, had a chance to cut the lead to one, but only converted one-of-two free throws. With the score 62-60, Wings Academy forced a pair of Dixie Heights turnovers and converted 5-of-8 free throws down the stretch to seal the game.
Hatton's teammate for the three-point contest, senior forward Parker Stansburry, led the Colonels with 17 points. Hatton, just a sophomore who has started since eighth grade, finished with 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds but struggled from the floor in the second half.
Impressive shooting by the Dixie Heights gave the Colonels a slim one-point advantage heading into the break. Stansburry led the team from Kentucky and first-time STOP-DWI participant with 11 first-half points. Wings Academy was paced by Jenkins 15 points and five rebounds.
The Colonels hit six first-half three's, shooting a solid 50 percent (12-24) from the field. Wings Academy stayed in the game due to constant ball pressure by an active defense forcing ten first-half turnovers. Wings Academy closed the half on an 8-2 run to go into the break down 35-34.
Wings Academy came out of the intermission hitting on all cylinders, quickly regaining the lead on a three-pointer by Jenkins just a minute into the second half. From there the play of the 6-foot-7 Gomez allowed the Wings to maintain their lead with dominant play inside and outside. Gomez recorded seven third quarter points, including a three that ignited the Wings Academy bench.
Cold shooting hampered both teams for the remainder of the third quarter, but Dixie Heights was able to scrap together a 7-0 run to end the third, evening the game at 47-47 heading into the fourth quarter.
Five straight points by Jenkins to open the final quarter broke the tie for Wings Academy, but a NBA-range three by Hatton brought Dixie Heights back within two. The Colonels eighth three of the game gave the visitors a one-point lead with about five minutes to play.
NYCHoops.net #5 ranked Wings Academy advances in the winner's bracket and will take on #4 ranked Christ the King (Queens, N.Y.) Thursday evening at 5:45 p.m. Dixie Heights will continue on in the consolation bracket facing off with St. Rita (Chicago, Ill.), Thursday afternoon at 1 p.m.