United Faith used effective man-to-man defense in a 59-54 win in the semifinals of the NCISAA 1-A boys basketball tournament at Cape Fear Christian Academy on Tuesday night.
“Nobody has played us man-to-man since December,” said first-year CFCA coach Steve Mims Jr. “They had a lot of athletic guards.”
The Eagles (24-8) experienced offensive lulls with just three points in the first quarter and eight in the third. The hosts trailed 7-3 after eight minutes.
Cinque Lemon had 13 of his team-high 16 points in the second quarter as CFCA rallied to lead 28-23 at the half. Lemon finished with four fouls and sat out a significant portion of the second half.
The Eagles struggled again in the third quarter with offensive continuity.
CFCA was within 54-52 after two free throws by Tristin Harkins but the Falcons (18-3) were awarded a timeout with 16 seconds to go when they couldn’t make an inbounds pass.
Xavier McKelvy led UF, the No. 2 seed in the West bracket, with 18 points.
CFCA, the top seed in the East, got 15 points from Tristin Harkins, who had four 3-pointers. Jabare Perry had six points. Caden Bell and Zeke Brock scored five each. Amari Perry had four points. Kaleb Siler scored two and Paul Tako added one.
Brock and Perry scored all of their points in the final period as the Eagles made a comeback.
United Faith will host Victory Christian, the top seed in the West, for the state title on Saturday. Victory, which has not been allowed to play at home in the playoffs due to NCISAA sanctions, won 68-53 at Greenfield on Tuesday night.
CFCA went 9-1 in the Sandhills Athletic Conference for a share of the league championship and went to the NCISAA semifinals for the first time since 2016 when the Eagles made it to the state final before losing to Trinity Christian of Fayetteville, 75-66, at Ravenscroft. That Trinity team included current Duke player Joey Baker.
Twins Paul and Sila Tako were the only seniors on this year’s CFCA team.
“This playoff game was good experience for us and we’re going to continue to build the program,” Mims said.