Harnett Central opened the second half of Tri-County Six 3-A Conference play with a varsity basketball sweep of visiting Lee County on Friday night, with both the boys and girls teams taking a regular season sweep over the Yellow Jackets.
In the girls game, Harnett Central started strong and held off a fourth-quarter rally to top Lee County 50-35.
“I told them after the game, ‘I’ve been on y’all’s butts about not starting being intense,’” said Harnett Central girls coach Chelsey Cabe. “‘Starting out flat, not punching teams in the mouth and jumping on them and not letting them feel like they have hope.’ Tonight, I couldn’t have asked for them to go out and play a better first quarter. And they played pretty good in the second quarter. We dropped off a little bit, but that first quarter. Defensive intensity and making our shots and getting steals and keeping our head up. You can’t ask for anything more than that. I guess now I’m going to have to stress finishing under pressure.”
Sophomore Syniah McMiller recorded a double-double, with 24 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks, and sophomore Brittany Mills had 10 points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals to lead the Trojans (12-5, 5-1 TCSC).
“I have been on (Syniah) about working on post moves and going into contact, so I’m glad to see her finally doing it,” Cabe said. “I thought Brittany played a good game. She had a stretch where she had some turnovers in the fourth quarter, but other than that I thought she commanded the floor well.”
Lyndsey Brewer had four points, five rebounds and four steals. Lyanah Molyneaux had four points and four rebounds. Fayth Brown had three points. Zykia Matthews and Keanna Womble had two points apiece. Madeline Langdon had one point.
Cabe was pleased with the defense Central played in the contest.
“Defensively, fantastic,” Cabe said. “We finally ran mountain cat the way it’s supposed to be ran, instead of, ‘I jog over and they dribble in between me and I get beat up the floor.’”
Senior Khaliyah Cheek had 14 points to pace the Yellow Jackets (3-14, 2-4).
Central came out red hot, going on a 23-4 run through the first quarter, including McMiller scoring 12 of her 24 points within the first four minutes of the game.
Late in the third, a Lee player fell into the legs of Central senior Lyndsey Brewer, who had to be assisted off of the court because of a knee injury and later returned from the trainer’s room on crutches. No further information on her status was available.
Central held a 44-24 lead going into the fourth quarter when Lee went on a 10-2 run to cut the lead to 12. But Central outscored Lee 4-1 down the stretch to cut off the late rally.
Harnett Central survived a close battle in the boys game, edging Lee County 51-47.
“Every game, anybody can beat anybody and possessions matter so much,” said Harnett Central boys coach Will Gage. “There were a couple of critical free throws that we missed in the fourth quarter, but there were a couple of critical ones that we made (Central was 0-for-8 at the line in the first three quarters and 11-for-17 in the fourth). And any time (late in the fourth) that they would cut into it, they would foul us almost immediately, so one second would go off. It seemed like that last 20 seconds took dadgum forever. We’ve been on the other end of those. You’ve just got to keep playing. They hung together and hit some big shots at the right times.”
Junior Trevonne Williams had 19 points and senior Kasey Perkins had 11 points to lead the Trojans (10-7, 5-1).
“(Williams) played with a lot of composure tonight,” Gage said. “He hit big shots for us, played defense and helped in transition.”
Chase Mullins had nine points. Anthony Tomlinson had six points. Croix Shipman, Jaden Meadows and Justin Perkins had two points apiece.
The Yellow Jackets (3-16, 2-4) were led by junior Jarrian Hancock, with 20 points.
After Central led 15-7 at the end of the first quarter and 22-15 at halftime, Lee went on a 14-6 run through the third quarter to take a 29-28 lead into the fourth.
The lead changed hands five times to open the fourth quarter, with a Williams three giving the Trojans a 35-33 lead. Tomlinson then scored and Mullins made a pair of free throws to push the lead to six.
Central held a late 49-45 lead when Hancock scored to cut the lead to two with 20 seconds left. But with eight seconds left, Tomlinson sank a pair of free throws to put the game out of reach.
Harnett Central is at conference and county rival Western Harnett Tuesday, at home for a non-conference game against Cleveland Wednesday and at conference foe Southern Lee Friday.
“We’ve got four conference games left and only one of them is at home (Union Pines to end the regular season on Feb. 15),” Gage said. “We’ve got Southern Lee at Southern Lee, Western at Western and Triton at Triton. Those are all tough. Cleveland played South Johnston tough and we’ve got them left as a non-conference. We talked about it at practice this week. I said, ‘You’ve got to look at it like a rec season. You’ve got six games and no one game is more important than the other. You’ve just got to take them one at a time.’ So, I guess right now we’re 1-0 out of the six.”