Western Harnett and South Johnston split a pair of varsity basketball battles Tuesday with the visiting Eagles winning the girls game and the Trojans winning the boys game.
A strong finish helped Western Harnett hold off South Johnston 47-41 in the girls game.
“We moved the ball a little bit better tonight,” said Western girls coach Matthew Smith. “We got up and down the floor. Makyia Mackey, she’s been really rebounding well. We had some outlet passes and then took off. That helped us kind of get moving back and forth.”
First-year South girls coach Whitney Williams, a former multi-sport standout for the Trojans, saw a lot of improvement in her team.
“Big, big improvements,” Williams said. “It’s really just the fundamentals. Just bringing it back to what we’re doing in practice. We can’t seem to get in there and get a rebound like we’ve been practicing. But getting our posts in there to get the rebound for second chances and we’re not getting second chances. If we can get them in there to get those second chances, I think we’ll get moving.”
A pair of seniors led the way for the Eagles (2-1). Lahaina “LaLa” Bell had 22 points and Taija Pruitt had 11 points.
Javona Farrington had six points. Makyia Mackey had three points. Emonni Barber and Jahkyia Rice had two points apiece. Kayling Matson had one point.
“We know LaLa can score, but so can everybody else,” coach Smith said. “There’s one thing about LaLa and all the other girls: they’re willing to give it to somebody else. It doesn’t have to be one person. All 14 girls I have are willing to give up their time and their points to help this team win.”
Sophomore Janay McDonald led the Trojans (0-2) with 14 points.
Mattie Wheeless had seven points. Nikki Lee had six points. Katon Blackmon had four points. Kennedy Byrd and McKinley Sills had three points apiece. Jenna Brown and Savannah Parker had two points apiece.
“We definitely had a lot of teamwork,” Williams said. “There was a lot of ball movement. It was a team effort. I’m definitely proud of the entire team effort on offense and defense.”
A tight first quarter saw Wheeless score to give the Trojans a 12-11 lead at the end of the period.
Early in the first, South lost junior Kaylee Creech to a hip injury. She had to be carried off the court and later emerged from the trainer’s room on crutches.
“That’s a tough one,” Williams said. “She’s one of our shooters. But with her going down, the bench definitely stepped up.”
The second quarter began with a technical foul against the Trojans for taking too long to clean some liquid that had spilled on the floor. Bell made both of the ensuing free throws and Mackey scored on the resulting possession to put Western in front for good.
Western outscored South 14-10 in the second quarter and 15-12 in the fourth. Both teams scored seven points in the third, with Bell providing all seven of Western’s points and McDonald scoring all seven of South’s.
South boys lead throughout
South Johnston led the entire boys game, but had to hold off a Western Harnett rally to take a 60-55 win.
“A lot of fun,” said South boys coach Brody Massengill. “You can’t ask for two teams to play harder. I love Seth (Womble), he’s a great coach and that’s something we both said when we shook hands a little while ago is how much fun it is when both teams play as hard as they do. It came down to a couple of possessions at the end. A couple of possessions went our way. We didn’t help ourselves with free throws (South shot 5-for-14 at the line). We about killed ourselves in the fourth quarter with free throws. But we made plays when we had to.”
Western boys coach Seth Womble had similar comments about the nature of the meetings between the two teams.
“I love Brody, his program and his guys,” Womble. “They play hard. He’s a great coach. His team really works hard. I love coming here, because I know we’re going to compete. It’s fun. It’s fun.”
Four different players scored in double figures for the Trojans (2-0). Senior Jacob Thornton had 15 points, despite missing the second half with an ankle injury, and junior Thomas Dees, senior JaQuain Smith and junior C.J. Ray had 10 points apiece.
Sam Webster had eight points, Colby Norris had three points and Clayton Blackman and Cole Winborne had two points apiece.
“Colby Norris took three charges tonight,” Massengill said. “He took one with a minute and a half left and then he came down and made two free throws with the game on the line.”
Senior Anthony Brewington had 23 points and senior Tobias Dillard had 14 points to lead the Eagles (0-3).
“Different people have to step up for us and tonight Anthony was one of those guys,” Womble said. “Tobias is a rebounder and a shot blocker and we’re trying to get him a little bit more involved offensively.”
Tre’ Richardson had seven points. Wesley Lassiter had five points. Tyrese Jones, Darrius Bailey and Caleb Smith had two points apiece.
South opened the game hot, outscoring Western 18-9 in the first quarter, but the Eagles rallied by outscoring the Trojans 19-12 in the second to cut the lead to 30-28 at the half.
“As we started playing a little better defense, our offense was created off of our defense,” Womble said. “Once that happened, we started actually getting in our set half court a little bit better.”
Webster was a big factor for South in the third quarter, scoring all eight of his points in the period as South outscored Western 13-8 to push the lead to 43-36 going into the final frame.
“Being in the right place at the right time,” Massengill said. “We’ve got a lot of guys out here that can make big plays. Sam needs to be the guy out here on the floor that stays constant.”
With South holding a 58-55 lead, JaQuain Smith went to the free throw line with four seconds left to try to put the game away. He missed both free throws, but the ensuing rebound went out of bounds off of a Western player and Norris was fouled with two seconds remaining. He made both to put the game out of reach.
Western Harnett is at West Johnston on Thursday and South Johnston travels to rival Triton on Friday.