National Christian Academy took advantage of Laurinburg Institute's off-shooting night as NCA topped the North Carolina school 78-61 in the opening round of the Twenty-Ninth St. James Invitational Tournament Thursday at St. James's Alumni Hall in the Hagerstown, MD, area.
National Christian (Fort Washington, MD) was led by sophomore point guard Earl Risby who knocked in 20 points. Senior guard Charlie Bell (Loyola, MD) added 16 points while junior swingman Keith Blanks put in 12.
Laurinburg, which fields both a high school team and a prep school team, was paced by senior point guard Jonathan Lyles with 14 points. Swingman Steve Leven (Auburn), who returned to action Thursday after missing some games with an ankle injury, added 11 while junior power forward Boubacar Coly chipped in 10 points for Laurinburg's high school squad.
National Christian opened with a 12-6 lead paced by Bell's nine points. The teams exchanged baskets for the remainder of the opening period with NCA ahead by eight until Blanks was called for a foul with 1.6 seconds left in the quarter. Lyles hit both free throws to bring the score to 24-18.
Risby's three at the mid-point of the second quarter put NCA up 32-22. After a free throw by Coly, NCA ran off 10 straight points, the last three on free throws by Risby to stretch the lead to 42-23. The lead was reduced to 42-26 as Leven hit a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer.
The teams matched baskets through most of the third quarter until the 1:25 mark when NCA center Jabbar Young (West Virginia) picked up his fourth foul as junior forward Regis Koundjia leapt over Young for the score. Before Koundijia could shoot the free throw (which he made), Young was hit with a technical that knocked him out of the game. Leven hit one of those two charity tosses for a four-point play which brought the score to 52-40. A three-pointer by NCA's sophomore guard Chris Matthews pushed the lead to 57-40 at the end of the period.
At 6:19 into the final stanza, Risby hit a behind-the-basket layup to put the score at 61-44. Then Risby hit Bell for an attempted layup; Bell, fouled by Coly, hit both free throws to extend NCA's lead to 72-45.
At the 3:08 mark, Coach Chris Chaney substituted for most of his regulars. Five seconds later there was a lot of movement on the court after an altercation which resulted in Risby's ejection. No one from Laurinburg was penalized.
National Christian will meet Notre Dame Academy at 8:30 pm Friday. Laurinburg will face host St. James in the opening game at 4:00 pm.