Western Harnett won a Tri-County Six 3-A Conference varsity sweep over visiting Harnett County rival Triton on Friday night, taking the rubber match with the Hawks in both boys and girls basketball.
After a hot start by Triton, a dominant second quarter powered Western Harnett to a 44-39 win in the girls game.
“We started kind of rough,” said Western Harnett girls coach Matthew Smith. “We stuck back in a 2-3 (defense), because we’d been so good in the 2-3. But tonight, we just didn’t have it, so I said, ‘Look, let’s just go man. Let’s run a little bit and I’ll get you a breath and go back to 2-3.’ But the girls played so good in man, I didn’t really know if I wanted to go back to 2-3.”
Triton coach Wendy Simmons pointed to the Hawks’ inability to stop Western senior Lahaina “LaLa” Bell in the second quarter as the difference in the game.
“We got beat in the second quarter,” Simmons said. “Honestly, by one person. We knew what she did before in the Tipoff Tournament (Bell had 33 points in a 43-29 win by Western). And then at our place (Triton won 32-30), we played really good defense on her and she only scored 10. Then tonight, I don’t know. I tried different people there and it seemed like when I had certain people out, the other ones didn’t take up the defense like they’re supposed to. And we got in foul trouble (Anaya Lockamy, Anastasia McDonald and Alexis Howard each fouled out) and it just took us out of our game.”
Triton and Western split conference games, with the home team winning each time, but, if necessary, the Eagles hold a tiebreaker for conference tournament seeding over the Hawks because of a season-opening win over Triton in the first round of the Harnett County Tipoff Tournament on Nov. 19.
Bell paced the Eagles (10-11, 3-5 TCSC) with 32 points.
Kayling Matson had four points, Kaile McLean, Emonni Barber and Makyia Mackey had two points apiece and Javona Farrington and Taija Pruitt had one point apiece.
A pair of seniors led the Hawks (8-14, 3-5), as Anaya Lockamy had 10 points and Hannah Jackson had nine.
Zoie Starling had seven points, Kaila Cooney and Jordan Miles had five points apiece and Alexis Howard had three points.
Triton opened the game strong, outscoring Western 17-6 in the first quarter.
But Western’s answer was even stronger, as the Eagles outscored the Hawks 23-5 in the second quarter and led the rest of the way.
“It was not a nice halftime (in the locker room),” Smith said. “I was not real happy, even though we were up. We had to travel that far to get up. I said, ‘They’re killing us just because they’re beating us up and down the court. We don’t play that. We’re going to rebound the ball.’ I had Emonni Barber come in tonight and even though she’s kind of undersized, I know she’s the strongest girl at Western Harnett. That comes from coach (Blake) Culbertson, the football coach, because he has her in weightlifting. And she can D on anybody because she is so strong. That was the best performance I’ve seen her have.”
Triton outscored Western 11-9 in the third quarter and both teams had six points in the fourth.
Jones paces Eagles in extra period
After Western Harnett dominated the first quarter, Triton rallied to take the boys game to overtime, but a big performance in the extra period from junior Tyrese Jones led Western to a 64-61 win.
Friday’s game was the second overtime game between Triton and Western. The Hawks beat the Eagles 62-58 in a double overtime game at Harnett Central to start the season in the first round of the Harnett County Tipoff Tournament on Nov. 20. But, if necessary for conference tournament seeding, Western holds a tiebreaker over Triton from winning both conference meetings.
“That first one in double OT hurt,” said Western Harnett boys coach Seth Womble. “But Triton’s been so good lately. Since I’ve been a part of Western Harnett, he’s (Triton boys coach T.J. Morrison) been so good and Triton’s had such a good program. That first game, we lost, but it was a good measuring stick to see where our team was. So, I’m just happy that we got the conference wins.”
Five of Triton’s eight conference games so far, including both wins, have been decided by three points or less.
“The first problem is, you dig yourself a hole when you get down 14-3. The first quarter was rough,” said Triton boys coach T.J. Morrison. “We’ve had so many nights like tonight where we’re one play away. I think we took the lead one time and didn’t get a stop. We tied it one time and then fouled a kid who made free throws. We’re just one play away. We’ve got to get that last stop, get that last play. It’s a lot of nights. It hurts.”
Senior Tre’ Richardson had 27 points and Jones had 16 points to lead the Eagles (7-14, 3-5).
“(Richardson) is averaging over 20,” Womble said. “He’s a captain for us. He’s a great leader. His leadership has grown every year. He’s got an offer to go play college basketball. He’s really motivated and a hard worker and he deserves to go out and play like he does. I couldn’t be more proud to coach a player like him. He’s been pretty consistent for us. He does that because of his hard work.”
Tobias Dillard had nine points. Wesley Lassiter had six points. Tay Davis had five points. Kahlil McLean had two points. Steven Lassiter had one point.
Seniors Derreon Burnett and Emari White had 15 points apiece and junior Travion Sanders had 11 points to pace the Hawks (9-13, 2-6).
Kalil Hodges had nine points, Josiah Lett had six points and Colby Parker had five points.
Western opened the game with 13 unanswered points. During that run, Triton missed its first nine shots of the game and had six turnovers before a three-point play from Burnett put Triton on the board. A Jones free throw gave the Eagles a 14-3 lead at the end of the quarter.
Triton chipped away at Western’s lead until a pair of Hodges free throws tied the score at 56 with 39 seconds left.
The Eagles ran the clock nearly all the way down, but did not get a clean shot off. Sanders got the rebound for Triton, raced down the court and got a shot off in time that was on line, but a touch too strong, bouncing off of the back of the rim.
“It (Sanders’ shot) seemed like it took forever to get to the basket,” Morrison said. “At first, I didn’t think it was going to get there. I thought it was going to be short, but then it hits the back of the rim. We talk about, ‘Whatever’s on the clock, you’ve got that plus one, as far as dribbles.’ I think he made a great play. A great effort.”
Jones opened the overtime period with back-to-back three-pointers to give the Eagles a six-point lead and, after Parker scored and White hit a three to cut the lead to one, scored again to push the lead back to six. Triton was unable to answer as Western held on for the win.
“Tyrese is one of the best athletes we’ve got in the school,” Womble said. “He’s really shined out here on the basketball court. He loves playing defense. He had a turnover in regulation and he took it personal. He wanted to do something to help us win and he did. He hit two big threes and then the layup.”
Triton’s junior varsity boys provided the lone win of the night for the Hawks as they edged Western Harnett, 51-47. Neither school has a JV girls team.
Triton returns home to host conference and county rival Harnett Central and Western Harnett is at conference foe Lee County on Tuesday night.