LYNN— The inaugural meeting between the KIPP Academy and Tech boys basketball teams went down to the wire. The Tigers erased a pair of 13-point deficits and tied the game twice but fell just short in a 70-65 loss Tuesday night at Tech’s Field House.
KIPP’s Wallace Reed did the bulk of the scoring with 26 points. Winfred Sanchez added 15, while Dave Filias and Algha Barry each scored seven.
Robert Wallace led Tech with 25 points, 22 of which we scored in the second half. Amari Gaston finished with 17 and Jhoan Ortega added 10.
After an even start in the opening minutes, KIPP turned its press defense into points by forcing Tech turnovers. The Panthers grabbed a 14-6 lead and forced Tech to use its first timeout of the night. Mehki Cronin’s basket got the Tigers back on track out of the break but they trailed 22-13 at the end of the first quarter.
Ortega banked in a 3-pointer to start the second quarter, slimming KIPP’s lead to 22-16. Sanchez hit a 3-pointer of his own to bump the lead back up to nine, 25-16. From there, the second quarter turned chippy with both teams committing their share of fouls. With whistles back and forth neither team could carry much rhythm into the half. The Panthers led 37-30 at recess.
“We saw during scouting that Tech has a tendency to reach,” KIPP coach David White said. “Instead of sliding their feet a little bit, they’ll go for the quick steal. I told our guys to be aggressive. We want to win the free throw battle. We did that tonight. There were a ton of fouls but we shot more free throws than they did.”
Tech fell into a 13-point hole, 48-35, when Pius Robert netted a 3-pointer midway through the third quarter. The Tigers burned another timeout and regrouped to cut the deficit down to five points. A 6-0 run led by a pair of Wallace buckets in the paint made it 50-45 heading into the fourth quarter.
With the Tigers clawing back in, Barry’s 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter gave the Panthers breathing room. Showing no quit, the Tigers battled back. Gaston turned a steal into a lay-in to even the game at 59-59 with 4:07 to play. KIPP regained the lead but Wallace knotted the score a few minutes later with a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
“They outplayed us,” White said. “They out-toughed us. They won every 50-50 ball, they were on the boards heavy. Most of that was with Qasim Abellard on the bench with foul trouble. We were fortunate in that sense. We know we have to play better. Tech did a great job sticking around.”
Clinging to a 2-point edge, Barry gave the Panthers breathing room (again) with a second-chance bucket to make it a 67-63 game with under a minute remaining. The Panthers hit their free throws in the closing seconds and escaped with the 70-65 win.
“I loved our ability to close the game,” White said. “It might not have been the prettiest game. By far, it wasn’t the best fundamental game we played. But when it counted we made big free throws down the stretch and we stuck together through adversity on the road.”
KIPP (11-2) has a week of practice ahead before visiting Classical next Monday night (7).
“It’s going to be a track meet,” White said. “Classical gets up the floor, shoots a lot of three’s. They’re super athletic. We’re going to have play a lot better if we want to win.”
Tech hopes to bounce back Friday (5:30) when it visits Northeast.