Making up games postponed from Friday because of the threat of inclement weather, Harnett Central opened varsity basketball season on Wednesday with a split against visiting Smithfield-Selma. The Trojans won the girls game and the Spartans won the boys game.
Harnett Central started the season strong in the girls game, winning a 61-11 rout.
“They’re excited for the season,” said Harnett Central girls coach Chelsey Cabe. “We have a large senior class. So, it’s nice to be able to depend on those seniors and have confidence in them to kind of pick up where we left off last year. We’re still a bit rusty as far as some plays go and making sure we’re in place at a certain time. But, as far as the intensity and the heart and all of that, I like what I see.”
Junior Shay Ward had 14 points, senior Syniah McMiller had 13 points and senior Lya Molyneaux had 10 points to lead the Trojans (1-0).
Ward is a transfer from South Johnston, who was South’s leading scorer in the season opener last year before suffering an injury that sidelined her for the rest of the season.
“She’s a great addition,” Cabe said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what she can do. She’s still got a little bit of work to do as far as some plays that she’s behind on because she hasn’t been with us previously. But I’m really excited for that addition and what I saw with her tonight.”
Brittany Mills had nine points. Jamia Harrington had seven points. JoNese Monroe had six points. Victoria Langdon had two points.
“Every girl I have, from one to 11, they do everything I ask them to,” Cabe said. “I don’t deal with any attitude. I deal with a bunch of girls coming together for a common goal and having a good time and loving the game of basketball. They’re a great group of girls.”
Senior My’shiah McQueen led the Spartans (0-2) with four points.
Central dominated all four quarters, outscoring Smithfield-Selma 15-4 in the first quarter, 25-0 in the second quarter, 15-5 in the third quarter and 6-2 in the fourth quarter.
In the boys game, Harnett Central battled back after a slow start, but was edged 59-55 by Smithfield-Selma.
“You’ve got to build on the positives,” said Harnett Central boys coach Will Gage. “Obviously, we wanted a different result. But there was a point in the first half where the game really could have gotten away from us and it would have been a blowout. And I thought that our guys held their composure and didn’t back down. We fought back to kind of make it a game at halftime. But it seemed like any time we would make a run, No. 5 (Dylan Gottuso) would hit another three. They made 11. I don’t care who you play, if you allow 11 threes, you’re not going to win. You don’t ever want a game where your differential is you made one and they made 11.
“I told them, ‘If we were playing our best basketball right now, I would be worried.’ You’re not supposed to be playing your best basketball at the beginning of the year. We’ve got some things to build on.”
Junior Seven McClain had 17 points and junior Chris Mills had 11 points to lead the Trojans (0-1).
Khalil Cameron and Xavier Bailey had eight points apiece. Jaden Bryant had six points. Quez Jones had five points.
Central is almost entirely a new team this season. Cameron, a senior, and Jones, a junior, are the only returning varsity members from last season, with Jones only having been on varsity for the postseason last year.
“Obviously, it is a huge jump from JV to varsity,” Gage said. “So, I credit those guys for battling the way that they did.”
With the Spartans being called for 33 fouls in the game, Central had many opportunities at the free throw line, but could not capitalize, shooting just 16-for-40 (40 percent) at the line.
Dylan Gottuso had 21 points, 18 of which came from hitting six three-pointers, to pace the Spartans (1-0).
Central trailed 21-14 early in the second quarter before rallying with eight unanswered points to take a 22-21 lead. But the Spartans finished the quarter with an 8-2 run to lead 29-24 at halftime.
The game was tied 54-54 late in the fourth when Jalen Hinton made a pair of free throws to put the Spartans back in front. After a Bryant free throw cut the lead to one, Hinton made two more at the line to push the lead to three and Central was unable to score to answer the rest of the game.
Harnett Central and Smithfield-Selma meet again at Smithfield-Selma on Friday.