PALESTINE – The Palestine Wildcats overcame their first-half deficit behind a 35-point second-half in their, 55-44, defeat of Center inside Wildcat gymnasium Tuesday night.
Simply put, shots were not fallen for Palestine during the first two quarters, which allowed Center to take a 17-11 lead after the first quarter.
The Wildcats defense tightened up in the second, but their offense continued to struggle as they headed to the locker room down 25-20.
“20 points in one half is not us,” coach J.J. Johnson said. “The effort and the hustle was there, but shots weren't falling. We had to rely on our defense in the second half and attack the rim more.”
After being held to two points in the first half, senior guard Enoch Fatade scored nine of the Wildcats 12 points in the third quarter.
Offense still came slowly for both sides as the Wildcats trailed 28-20 before Fatade splashed home a three five minutes into the third quarter.
Palestine had a chance to cut the deficit to a single possession off of a slick pass from Fatade to Eric Carthen in the right corner. The three-pointer fell short. Center pushed the ball down court and was awarded the two-point bucket from a goaltending call by Dreyon Barrett.
The defensive intensity for the Wildcats appeared to shift to another level with a little under two minutes remaining until the fourth. Fatade and Carthen trapped the opposing Center dribbler behind midcourt, which forced a needed turnover.
Fatade drove hard to the basket as he took the contact and kisses the ball off the glass for a possible and-1 opportunity.
He missed the free throw, but Palestine were only two possessions away from regaining the lead.
Both sides exchanged buckets before Fatade splashed home another three from the right wing to sit the score a 34-31. De'Marrius Session split his quarter-ending free throws to cut the lead to two.
Fatade continued finding success driving to the basket. He was fouled early in the fourth on a layup attempt and put in both shots from the charity stripe.
Center responded with a pair of free throws themselves to retake the lead, 36-34.
On the following possession, Palestine showcased the type of ball movement that would make most coaches proud.
Fatade kicked it to Sessions who drove baseline before finding Carthen on the wing for an easy free throw line jay.
The Wildcats full-court press continued creating issues for the Center offense. Another steal resulted in an easy look at the basket for Carthen until he was fouled by an opposing defender. He made both free throws to take their first lead, 38-36.
Offense began flowing heavily for the Wildcats. Fatade's driving ability forced the defense to crash on him, which allowed him to drop a no-look dime into Barrett for an easy two.
With five minutes left to go in the fourth, Fatade sent added to assist total with another dime pass to Carthen. He got the shot off, but was fouled as the ball fell through the net. He couldn't convert on the and-1 opportunity, but Palestine still lead 42-38.
A statement dunk from Barrett a few possessions later nearly shutdown the gym and sparked a 10-2 run for the Wildcats.
Fatade led the Wildcats with 15 points. Elvin Calhoun and Eric Carthen both dropped 13 on the night, while Dreyon Barrett added 12.
The Wildcats will enjoy a lengthy break before their district home opener Jan. 17 against Mexia.