Triton and South Johnston’s varsity boys basketball teams brought the month of November to a close in spectacular fashion, with the visiting Trojans edging their rivals 52-49 in overtime to stay unbeaten Friday.
“I can’t say enough about T.J. (Morrison) and (Triton’s) coaching staff and kids,” said South coach Brody Massengill. “Every time we play it’s what high school basketball is all about, I feel like. I know for me and him both, we enjoy playing each other and we even enjoy the road games, because it’s a great environment. Late, the ball bounced our way a couple of times and I felt like we were real lucky to get out of here with a win. Either team could have won it at any time late in the fourth and in overtime.”
Triton coach T.J. Morrison echoed Massengill’s thoughts on the excitement of the Hawks-Trojans rivalry.
“I do love playing these guys,” Morrison said. “South’s always a nice fight and rivalry. Coach Massengill always does a great job. He made a really good call on a side out of bounds play where he kind of iso’ed his post player, 34 (C.J. Ray) and he made a heck of a play. They do a good job.”
In just its third game this season, Triton has been to overtime twice. The Hawks opened the season with a 62-58 double overtime win against Western Harnett in the Harnett County Tipoff Tournament.
Senior JaQuain Smith had 23 points and junior C.J. Ray had 14 points to lead the Trojans (3-0).
“JaQuain was unbelievable,” Massengill said. “He was unbelievable late in the fourth and in overtime. You come down and run a ball screen for him and you know he’s going to make a play. It’s so fortunate having a fourth-year guard like him. C.J., he didn’t play half the game because he got in foul trouble, but when we needed him at the end, he got buckets for us.”
Clayton Blackman had six points, David Honeycutt had three points and Thomas Dees, Colby Norris and Cole Winborne had two points apiece.
South was without senior sharpshooter Jacob Thornton, who suffered an ankle injury against Western Harnett Tuesday.
“That’s the first time in a while that I haven’t put his name in this (score) book,” Massengill said. “But he’s like a fourth coach for us on the bench. And all of our guys that played tonight made some sort of contribution tonight.”
Massengill was pleased with the team’s efforts rebounding and on defense.
“We had guys like Clayton rebounding,” Massengill said. “Colby was rebounding. Jackson Raynor came in and gave us big minutes. I was happy with our defense. Our goal is around 50 points and we held them to 49 in an overtime game, so we’re extremely happy with the defense that we played.”
Senior Derreon Burnett paced the Hawks (1-2) with 12 points and seven rebounds.
Emari White had nine points and four assists. Travion Sanders had eight points and five rebounds. Colby Parker had eight points. Kalil Hodges had seven points and seven rebounds. Ladrabious Eason had three points. Shaiheim Strickland had two points and five assists.
The game was a constant back-and-forth battle, with momentum changing hands multiple times throughout.
With the game tied at 42 late in the fourth, Strickland scored to give Triton the lead with 12.9 seconds left to play. But Smith answered with a score on the other end to send the game to overtime.
“There was at least two, I want to say maybe three times, we go up and have a chance to win in regulation if we get a stop up two,” Morrison said. “If we go to the other end and get to shoot free throws, maybe it’s a different story. But we didn’t get those key stops. One was an offensive rebound and they put it back in. Another was a side out of bounds and they made a play. We had a few opportunities.”
Ray scored to start a 6-1 Trojan run to open the extra period and South led the rest of the way.
With just under a minute left in overtime, Smith made a pair of free throws to give South a 52-49 lead. Hodges looked to tie the game with a three that bounced off the rim, no good. Triton got one last chance after a pair of missed free throws by South. Hodges raced down the court and tried for three again as time expired, but, under heavy defensive pressure from Ray, the shot missed its mark.
Triton is at home against Fuquay-Varina on Tuesday and Midway on Friday. South Johnston is at Harnett Central on Tuesday and at Midway on Thursday.
“We’re going to keep fighting, keep working,” Morrison said. “Games are probably going to be like that this year. We’ve just got to keep working to get there and hopefully we can make those plays and finish.”
“We’ve just got to keep getting better,” Massengill said. “We can always keep working on our defense. We take pride in playing defense and taking charges and making it hard on people to score. Offensively in three straight games we’ve looked good about 50 percent of the time and the other 50 percent we rush stuff and take a lot of threes. The more we play, the more we get into a rhythm. We’ve got to work on playing defense too without fouling. We can improve on everything that we’re doing.”