Zach Wilbur

FULTON, Ill. -- The Unity Christian Knights used some long shots to make a rally late in the game, but didn't have quite enough and fell 76-71 to Faith Christian Academy on Monday night at home.

"I told them not to hang their heads," head coach Jeff VanderEide said. "We got beat but there's nothing to be ashamed of to comeback and make a game of it."

The Knights came out of the gate fast, streaming to a 7-0 lead and holding the Falcons scoreless for nearly four minutes. That included a three from senior Tyler Appel.

The three-pointers add up quick, however, and all of a sudden Faith Christian was putting them in. They drained a total of five in the first eight minutes alone while the Knights did their best to keep up. Appel hit two, but the Falcons were only trailing by one after the first.

"That was their game plan, the three pointers," VanderEide said.

The next quarter started similarly to the first. A drive and bucket from Andrew Appel and then a three from Joey Woods and the Knights took another six point lead. By the time halftime rolled around the Falcons had taken the one point lead, 31-29.

The Knights wouldn't regain the lead against until five minutes into the second half. Even then it was short-lived as the Falcons' offensive rebounding started to take a toll. Another five threes from Faith Christian, who ended up with 10 on the night, and the Falcons took a commanding lead. They led by as much as 13 in the early fourth quarter.

"We missed some easy shots that we could have got," VanderEide said. "Then they were doing good at getting their shots in. It's just working on box out instead of just standings there, looking for a body."

Battles ensued. Trailing by none with just 2:30 left to play Ty Bickelhaupt hit a three-pointer. The Falcons then had yet another offensive putback but then Bickelhaupt came right back down the floor with a layup.

Tyler Appel then took a charge on the baseline in front of the fans and capitalized with a drive right down the center of the lane and it was just a four-point game with 57 seconds remaining.

"He's a key player to our team," VanderEide said. "He runs the offense, he's quick, he's moving. He's definitely a leader on the floor for us."

A pair of free throws extended the Falcons' lead to six but then Appel shot through defense to drain a three, his fourth of the night, to make it 74-71. With just eight seconds left the Knights had to foul and the Falcons' free throws sealed the game.

Four Knights put up double-digits. Tyler Appel led with 23. Joey Woods had 14, then Ty Bickelhaupt and Zach Wilbur had 10 a piece.

The Knights travel to the Quad Cities on Friday to take on Quad Cities Christian.

GIRLS OUTSIZED, OUTSCORED

The Unity Christian girls really struggled, especially in the first half, to hold their own against Faith Christian Academy and fell 48-18 Monday.

The Falcon went on a 7-0 run to start the game until Jillian Fisher put in a score from the block. Then the size and experience of the Falcon got to the Knights. They scored just five points in the first half and it was littered with turnovers. They trailed 41-5 with continuous clock.

"The height impact and we have a really young team this year especially," Unity coach Jessica Hollewell said. "A lot of experience and that adds an intimidating aspect at first."

Rebounding might have been where they struggled the most.

"We sink under the basket a bit," Hollewell said. "We just keep trying to remind them about boxing out and staying in position."

The Knights did manage to hold their own in the second half. They started against a handful of bench players from Faith but ended playing the same starters they faced at the beginning. Hollewell believes it was all a confidence factor.

"We told them it's not about winning the game, it's about setting a goal," Hollewell said. "What are the goals we have to make an improvement and build our confidence. The goal was to get under 30 points to get the running clock to stop and they accomplished that. There was a lot of confidence, a lot of smiles coming down the court and that makes it that much better."

The girls also take to the road for a contest with Quad Cities Christian this Friday. Their next home game is Feb. 4.