Triton split games with Overhills on the first day of the Bennie Pollock Memorial basketball tournament hosted by Harnett Central Monday, with Triton’s girls and Overhills’ boys advancing to their respective championship games.
Triton started hot in the varsity girls game and weathered an Overhills rally to win, 42-38.
“That’s just preparation,” said first-year Triton girls coach Richard Rozier. “We run a lot. We’re well-conditioned. And it came into play tonight. We went seven-deep, which is always hard. Because of COVID and other things, we couldn’t have our full rotation. But the ladies did a great job of maintaining and being the best they could be in the hard moments. When things got hard, I think we were even better than when things were easy, which is awesome.”
Freshman JaNiah Smith had 19 points and four steals and sophomore A’Shari Watlington had 11 points and six rebounds to lead the Hawks (1-0).
“They played lights out tonight,” Rozier said. “A’Shari and JaNiah played well tonight.”
Abby Hood had five points and eight rebounds. Tristan Ennis had four points, five rebounds and two blocks. Aubree Bass had two points and 11 rebounds. Virginia Pope had one point.
With Ennis, a senior and a key post player, sidelined much of the game by foul trouble, Rozier was pleased with how Bass and Pope stepped up down low.
“It’s so awesome,” Rozier said. “I’m happy for them. It was good to see them step up. They’re not afraid of the lights and they really stood out for us tonight.”
Freshman Morgan Williams had 14 points and sophomore Eva McRae had 10 points to pace the Jaguars (0-1).
Nyasia McKinnon had six points. Sheterra Paige and Sadyia Davis had three points apiece. Tyra Lee had two points.
Hood hit a three-pointer in the game’s opening seconds to start the Hawks on an 18-3 run through the first quarter.
The Jaguars steadily chipped away at the lead, cutting it to just four, at 33-29 at the end of the third quarter.
Triton opened the fourth with a 7-2 run to get separation and time ran out before Overhills could mount another rally.
Overhills faces host Harnett Central in the girls consolation game at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday.
Triton plays Western Harnett in the girls championship game at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. It will be just the second time the two teams have met in the championship and the first since 1998. Bennie Pollock, the tournament’s namesake, was the coach at Western that year. Rozier played high school basketball at Western Harnett.
In the boys game, Overhills set the tone early in a 99-65 win over Triton.
“I’m very fortunate for the first game having some athletes like that where they can make my job really easy,” said first-year Overhills coach Michael Stephens. “We wanted to run it fast. I’ve got a good 10-deep, so we wanted to pick up the pace and mix it up a little bit on them a little bit and that’s exactly what they did. So, I was proud of them, they did really well.”
Triton coach T.J. Morrison said Overhills was a tough matchup for the Hawks.
“First of all, Overhills is really good,” Morrison said. “They’re long, athletic and have some really good shooters. They should be a good team this year and hard for anybody to beat. Even if we play our best game, they’re tough. We’ve just got to get better competing. We didn’t dive on the floor for loose balls. I told them our goal should be 10 a game and first half we had none. Rebounds, at half, we had nine defensive rebounds and they had 10 offensive rebounds. You’ve got to rebound the basketball and you can’t give them second and third shots. The effort’s got to be better, but they’re really good.”
A quartet of seniors led the Jaguars (1-0). Ayden Gittens had 25 points, Jamori McDougald had 15 points, Yabdiel Cruz had 12 points and Jamar James had 10 points.
Damien Robinson and Jay Byron had seven points apiece. Omari Taylor had six points. Howard Gabriel had five points. Demarion Jackson had four points. Jaden Bryant and Isaiah Oates had three points apiece. Kevin Lalin had two points.
Junior Jalen Evans and freshman Romello Pegues had 14 points apiece and junior James Shaw had 10 points and seven rebounds to lead the Hawks (0-1).
Quashaun Williams had nine points. Nate McKoy had seven points and seven rebounds. J.J. Cowan had seven points and five rebounds. Hayden Pope and Carter Daughtry had two points apiece.
Triton lost junior Will Heard, expected to be one of the Hawks’ leading scorers this season, to an injury in the first quarter.
“It hurt losing Will early in the game there,” Morrison said. “Tough losing him. Played some young guys a lot of minutes. I had a freshman and a sophomore that got some time. I know Romello had a really good game. Quashaun made some plays.”
Overhills outscored Triton in all four quarters: 23-13 in the first, 23-12 in the second, 26-19 in the third and 27-21 in the fourth.
Triton will meet the loser of Tuesday’s Western Harnett at Harnett Central game in the boys consolation game at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Overhills’ boys meet the winner of the Western-Central game in the championship game at 8 p.m. Wednesday, seeking its eighth straight Harnett County championship.