AUGUSTA – The Cony boys basketball team forced turnovers, hit 3-pointers and played sound half-court defense in its Class A North preliminary-round game against Erskine Academy on Thursday night.
When the Rams have all three facets working they’ve been tough to beat this season, and they weren’t denied Thursday as they pulled away in the second and third quarters to a 62-47 victory that punched their ticket to Saturday’s Class A tournament at the Augusta Civic Center.
Seventh-seeded Cony (10-9) will face No. 2 Hampden Academy, a team they defeated once this season already. Game time is 5:30 p.m.
Erskine, seeded 10th, finishes its season at 8-11.
With TV cameras rolling, the Cony pep band playing and a crowd of 1,500 from both communities in attendance, the game had a tournament-like feel to it. The teams split a pair of games in the regular season and there was no reason to think this one wouldn’t be another close one. But the Rams took charge in the second quarter, scoring 23 points to pull out to a 37-23 lead at the half. Sophomore Austin Parlin hit three of his five 3-pointers in the quarter, capped by Taylor Heath’s baseline jumper at the buzzer.
“It was one of our better games,” Cony junior Jordan Roddy said. “Defensively, I’d say it was one of our best games.”
Parlin finished with a game-high 17 points, but contributions came from several of his teammates as well.
Roddy finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds, while Nate Parlin grabbed a team-high 12 boards and sophomore Bryan Stratton collected seven offensive rebounds. And everyone in Coach T.J. Maines’ platooned system contributed on defense and helped force 26 turnovers. Junior Noah Bonsant paced the Eagles with with 13 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots while sophomore Jack Jowett added 12 points.
“I’ve got six sophomores on the team and I thought overall they played OK with a big crowd and did some good things,” Erskine coach Tim Bonsant said. “It’s about making shots. We had a lot of good looks that didn’t go in. I counted eight missed layups.”
The Eagles made 17 of 38 shots while Rams (23 of 67) took many more due both to forced turnovers and offensive rebounding. They were 9 of 36 from behind the three-point line, led by Parlin, who hit eight 3s in a recent win over Camden Hills.
“I just try to shoot out there and not think about missed,” Parlin said. “Sometimes it gets me and sometimes it doesn’t. I feel comfortable all over that three-point line.”
Parlin scored 11 points in the second quarter as the Rams pulled away after leading 18-16 early in the period. They also held the Eagles to four points over the final four minutes.
“We played well start to finish,” Maines said. “Defensively that was as good as we’ve played. The first quarter, I was not in love with. We had seven (fouls). In the second quarter we only had three and we had three or four the whole second half. We were much more active with our feet and anticipating the next pass.”
The Rams strung together a 12-2 run midway through the third quarter started by a pair of free throws from freshman Simon McCormick and capped by Parlin’s 3 from the right side. That made it 52-30 and the Eagles never recovered.
“I’m happy with the season,” Bonsant said. “I doubt many people in the gym thought we were going to be here. We weren’t picked in the top 10 in the coaches poll.”
The Rams handed Hampden in first loss of the season a month ago and will need to be o their game to do it again.
“We’ve got to keep moving forward,” Roddy said. “Now that we’ve won this game we can’t just sit back.”