South Johnston took an 81-59 varsity boys basketball win over visiting nonconference opponent Harnett Central behind a 34-point performance from senior JaQuain Smith Wednesday.
“We just played well,” said South Johnston coach Brody Massengill. “JaQuain, it was his night right from the get-go. He played with a lot of energy and a lot of effort and the rest of our team just followed behind it. I thought we made it tough on them. I thought we played good defense. (Central coach) Will (Gage)’s zone defense makes it hard to score sometimes, but I thought we shared the ball real well and got the looks we wanted. You can just tell from the joy on our kids’ faces that they love to play basketball and they’re playing well right now.”
Smith’s 34 points to lead the homestanding Trojans (12-1) included six three-pointers and 10-for-13 (76.9 percent) shooting at the free throw line.
“JaQuain put on a show tonight,” Massengill said. “He played well.”
C.J. Ray had 14 points. Jacob Thornton had 11 points. Thomas Dees, Colby Norris and Cole Winborne had six points apiece. Clayton Blackman had four points.
“C.J. got into foul trouble and we were kind of having to mix him in and other guys stepped up,” Massengill said.
The visiting Trojans (4-6) were led by senior Chase Mullins, with 14 points, junior Justin Perkins, with 12 points, and senior Kasey Perkins, with 11 points.
Croix Shipman had seven points. Anthony Tomlinson had six points. Trevonne Williams had five points. Austin Swan had two points. Jaden Meadows and Hayden Smith had one point apiece.
The game was close in the first half, with South outscoring Central 18-12 in the first quarter and both teams scoring 16 points in the second, giving South a 34-28 halftime lead.
South took full control of the game in the second half, outscoring Central 20-12 in the third quarter and 27-19 in the fourth.
Both teams start conference play on the road Friday, with South Johnston traveling to defending Greater Neuse 3-A Conference champion Clayton (5-6) and Harnett Central visiting Tri-County Six 3-A foe Lee County (1-12).
“We’ve basically got to start the season over Friday night,” Massengill said. “We’ve done our job in the non-conference and we played well, but we’ve got a long way to go. This is what we’ve practiced so hard for and we’ve put ourselves in this situation. Clayton isn’t going to be easy, everybody knows that. But you won’t have to say much in the locker room before the game. The kids will be ready. They’ll be amped up for it.”