JP Peduzzi’s bulldog mentality has been on display time and time again throughout his athletic career at Hilton Head Christian Academy. In a crucial region game deadlocked in the second half Tuesday, the senior put the team on his back, scoring 11 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter to lift his Eagles to a huge 51-44 home win over Colleton Prep.
It was a matchup between two outstanding young bigs in Colleton Prep eighth-grader Melvin Teal Jr. and Hilton Head Christian’s explosive freshman Isaiah Anderson. Both made contributions early, as Teal opened the scoring with a floater and Anderson delivered a beautiful pass to Brady Bagenstose for two before sinking a pair of free throws and converting in the post to put his squad up 8-7. Peduzzi started his sizzling night with a jumper and a crafty finish, while Andrew Helms added a bucket to finish the period with a 12-11 lead.
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The Eagles caught fire from behind the arc in the second, sinking three triples to stay in front. Jace Blackshear found Bagenstose in the corner to kick off the quarter with a bang, and Helms drained two more to put HHCA up seven. Teal found himself in foul trouble and had to miss some key minutes near the end of the half, but a mini 5-0 Colleton Prep run put the War Hawks right back in it. A Zilas Johnson floater and Naz Johnson three-point-play cut the lead to 25-23 at the halfway stage.
Peduzzi found Anderson in the paint to stop the run as the second half began, but CJ Dixon found his shot from beyond the arc for CPA, splashing a three to cut the deficit to one. Then Teal went to work, scoring on a rebound putback and knocking down a free throw to put Colleton Prep back in the lead.
With the game and postseason implications hanging in the balance, both squads were looking to produce that game-winning run. Only those with a strong drive and determination thrive in the clutch, and Peduzzi, the heart and soul of the state championship football team, certainly fit the bill. The senior took over the game, scoring 15 of HHCA’s final 22 points and willing his team to glory.
After the contest was dead-even at 29, the Eagles took control, as Peduzzi used every bit of his elite strength and athleticism to score in the post and rebound the ball, converting a pair of putbacks to extend the lead to seven. Just when Colleton Prep answered with a timely Dixon three, Peduzzi did it himself, taking a nice inside-out feed from Anderson and splashing a triple.
The War Hawks had no answer, as HHCA continued to feed the hot hand. His last bucket may have been the most incredible, as Peduzzi stormed to the rim and converted a dazzling finish to put the contest out of reach.
Anderson and Helms joined Peduzzi in double figures with 12 and 10 points, and Bagenstose added eight, including two three-pointers.
Naz Johnson scored 13 to lead Colleton Prep, and Teal put up 12.
HHCA (7-10, 4-6) travels to Bethesda Academy on Friday.
Colleton Prep (7-11, 1-5) heads to Sea Pines on Thursday to face Hilton Head Prep.