|Olympic-Harding games intense, often close|
|Published Wednesday, January 16, 2013 5:34 pm|
Both sides in the Harding-Olympic basketball rivalry expect a trilogy of close games.
|Olympic High’s C.J. Jackson drives to the basket in the Trojans’ 78-77 overtime win against Harding on Jan. 11. The last four games between the schools have been decided by six points or less, with Olympic winning three.|
Olympic won the first chapter on Jan. 11 when C.J. Jackson sank an off-balance rebound at the end of overtime to lift the Trojans to a 78-77 MEGA 7 victory.
“I was just praying it went in, pretty much,” said Jackson, a junior who scored 19 points in his first Olympic-Harding game.
Olympic (14-0, 4-0) is ranked third among North Carolina 4A teams by MaxPreps, but Harding (7-6, 2-2) is a worthy adversary. The Rams lost both regular season games last year by a combined four points before ruining Olympic’s unbeaten season with a 61-55 win in the conference tournament championship. In last week’s meeting, there were eight lead changes and eight ties in the second half and overtime.
“No one deserved to lose that game,” Trojans coach Ty Baumgardner said. “That was two good teams just going at it back and forth all night, which is what we expected.”
George Paul’s layup with 15 seconds left pushed Harding to a 77-76 advantage, but Olympic (14-0, 4-0) had one last chance to win. A play was set for guard Deriece Parks, but Jackson broke free heading to the basket. Jackson’s jumper bounced short but he rushed to retrieve the rebound and game-winner.
“I thought we did get the stop, but unfortunately, the ball bounced back in his hands and he threw up a prayer and it went in,” Harding coach Walter Aikens said. “It killed us but I was proud of our guys. The fought their hearts out.”
Both teams have outstanding talent. Olympic’s B.J. Gladden is one of the best wing players in the county, while Parks is a versatile shooting guard. Harding has a top-notch frontcourt in Emmanuel Patton and Steven Burrough and Aaron Linton, a 5-foot, 6-inch point guard who can also score.
“We stress to our guys all the time that we’ve got to get better,” Baumgardner said, “and I’m sure Walt’s saying the same things to his guys. We’ve got exams and four days of practice before we play Friday. Every team is trying to get better every day to be playing its best basketball at the end of the season.”
They’ll need to in order to stay unbeaten, especially with a return visit to Harding on Feb. 8. The Rams are certainly looking forward to it.
“I told our guys we’ll play them three times,” Aikens said. “I’m confident we’ll make it to the conference championship again and we have them at Harding again. We’re looking forward to it. My guys live for this type of game.”
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