SOUTH CHINA — It’s no stretch to say the Erskine Academy boys basketball team posted its biggest win in three years Thursday.

Before a rowdy holiday crowd, the Eagles traded hoops with rival Cony before pulling away in the final half minute to post a 67-61 win.

Erskine is 3-2,  equaling its win total of the past two seasons. Cony falls to 1-4.

“This is really big,” Erskine senior Shyler Scates said. “The whole season we wanted to beat Cony. It’s a big rivalry.”

Scates finished with a team-high 18 points, including four 3-pointers and he was also the primary defender on Cony’s Walker Cooper, who finished with 22 points but didn’t score in the fourth quarter.

“It’s tough,” Scates said of his assignment. “He’s the best shooter in the league, but you’ve just got to get on him and get in his head.”

The second half featured five ties and four lead changes. The Eagles took the lead for good when junior guard Devin Duncan hit a three from the top of the circle to make it 59-58. Duncan, the smallest player on the floor at 5-foot-6,  finished with 16 points, 11 of those in the first half.

“Tonight went really good,” Duncan said. “Everything seemed to flow and we just played our game.”

The Rams drew to within a basket, 63-61, when Chandler Shostak nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner with 25 seconds left. But Tom Grady and Tyler Belanger each made two free throws in the closing seconds to seal the win. While Scates and Duncan did most of their damage in the first half, Grady and Belanger made their contributions in the second. Grady finished with 12 points while Belanger scored 10.

“We had good balance tonight with scoring and with looks,” Erskine coach Ben Willoughby said. “I’m very, very happy with how the guards stepped up. We’re a little undersized at the guard position, but if we can continue to shoot well from the outside it gives teams something else to prepare for.”

The Eagles jumped out to a 13-4 lead but then Cooper got hot. The 6-6 senior scored 10 points in the second quarter to bring the Rams within three, 30-27 at the break. Cooper, Zac Lachance and Josiah Hayward opened the second half with hoops to give Cony its biggest lead of the game, 33-30. But following a timeout, Scates hit a three from the right side and Grady made two free throws and then a layup off a nice steal and assist from Damon Bailey.

“This is the bottom line of the game,” Cony coach Tim Bonsant said. “They made all kinds of 3-pointers. They live and die by the 3-pointer and tonight they lived by it.”

Hayward added 10 points for the Rams while Ben Lucas scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds and fellow sophomore Alex Neill scored six points, including a putback to give the Rams a 58-57 lead.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638
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