Host Harnett Central and visiting Overhills split varsity basketball contests in the championships of the Harnett County Tip-off Tournament on Wednesday, with the Trojans winning their first girls championship since 2012 and the Jaguars winning their seventh straight boys championship.
Harnett Central pulled away late to take a 49-31 win against Overhills in the girls championship.
The win snapped a drought of seven years since the last time Central had won the county crown.
“It just feels good,” said first-year Harnett Central girls coach Catherine Griffin. “We have worked so hard the last five or six years and we just couldn’t get over the Overhills hump and I feel like we’re finally over the Overhills hump. To get that win over them tonight just feels good. They’re a good ball team. Their coach is smart and he knows what he’s doing. For us to come in here tonight and play against a team that athletic and scrappy is a good sign for our season.”
First-year Overhills girls coach Nick Lewis said Harnett Central’s size advantage played a key role in the loss.
“It was tough,” Lewis said. “I think the biggest thing was 40 (Syniah McMiller) intimidated us with her size. She just clogged the lane. A lot of our offense is predicated on driving to the hole and she’s just a huge presence. She’s big for them. Hat’s off to them. They’re a tough team and Brittany (Mills) handled the pressure well.”
Junior all-tournament selection Syniah McMiller had 19 points, nine rebounds and eight blocks, junior tournament MVP Brittany Mills had 13 points, seven rebounds and four blocks and junior Lya Molyneaux had 13 points to lead the Trojans (2-0).
“When they went to a box-and-one (defense) on (Mills), she didn’t get frustrated and try to do too much,” Griffin said. “To me, that says MVP. That she put the team first and gave up maybe some of her points when they went to the box-and-one and she did what she had to do so the team could win.”
Madeline Langdon had three points and Jamia Harrington had one point.
“Madeline, I said at one point, is going to be the glue to hold us together,” Griffin said. “She does the little things. She gets rebounds. She boxes out. She gets steals. She dives on the floor after loose balls. She does all the little things to kind of hold everybody else together.”
Freshman Madison Cypher had 10 points to pace the Jaguars (1-1).
All-tournament selection Jade Butcher had nine points. All-tournament selection Maaika Dones had eight points. Janiya Gary-Cole had four points.
The game was close for the entire first half and most of the third quarter. With Central holding a 22-20 lead early in the third, the Trojans finished the quarter on an 8-2 run to lead 30-22 heading into the fourth.
With Central leading 38-29 in the fourth, the Trojans closed out strong, ending the game on an 11-2 run.
Girls All-Tournament honors went to Triton’s Kaila Cooney, Western Harnett’s Makyia Mackey, Overhills’ Jade Butcher and Maaika Dones and Harnett Central’s Syniah McMiller. Harnett Central’s Brittany Mills was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
“It means a lot,” Mills said. “I’ve always wanted to win it.”
This is the second-straight year Mackey and McMiller have been All-Tournament selections.
Jaguar boys pull away
After Harnett Central battled back in the third quarter of the boys championship, a strong fourth quarter powered Overhills to a 79-62 win.
“Just sticking to the coach’s game plan,” said Overhills senior Zach Lowery. “That’s what we had to do. We knew we had to do that and then we would win. Coach just told us to keep fighting and believing in what we had and that’s what we did.”
“Harnett Central went on that run and we just kind of fell apart mentally,” said first-year Overhills boys coach Joseph Easley. “I just reminded them in the huddle what we had to do to when. And I just kind of put it on them and said, ‘Alright. What are we made of?’ I think that our guys responded and they started buying into defensive stops, getting out into transition and running the floor. And Jalin Henry came up huge for us, hitting six threes and just providing a spark for us offensively.”
Easley is a former Harnett Central assistant varsity coach and head junior varsity coach.
Harnett Central boys coach Will Gage was pleased with how his team responded after halftime, but said they were unable to maintain that level of play.
“I was proud of the guys to come in the way they did in the third quarter,” Gage said. “I don’t think anything went our way offensively or defensively in the second half. I think it would have been very, very easy to come out with not much intensity and for that lead to balloon in the third quarter. I thought our guys played extremely hard. It seems like maybe they used so much energy that, once you get over that plateau, it’s hard to continue through another quarter so it just kind of went back to what it was before in the first half. But I thought our guys competed, so I’m proud of them for that.”
The Jaguars (2-0) have won the county crown in the boys tournament seven years in a row.
Senior tournament MVP Zach Lowery and senior Jalin Henry had 18 points each to lead the Jaguars.
“(Lowery) makes the best defenders guard him, which frees up open shots for his teammates,” Easley said.
All-tournament selection Damion Robinson had 13 points. Jordan Davis had 11 points. Tyree Camp had six points. Nakai Brown had five points. Cam’ron Sias and Tyler Gates had four points apiece.
“That’s what it’s going to take for us to be successful this season,” Easley said. “We’re going to have to try to put points on the scoreboard and get it from a lot of different areas. So, that’s exactly what we’re going to try to do each game is to try to get everybody involved and have everybody contribute and I think we did a pretty good job of that tonight.”
The Trojans (1-1) were led by their senior all-tournament team members. Anthony Tomlinson had 24 points and Tre Williams had 20 points.
Justin Perkins had nine points. Croix Shipman had five points. Austin Swan and Khalil Cameron had two points apiece.
After Overhills took a 35-24 lead at halftime, Central surged in the third quarter, outscoring the Jaguars 26-12 to take a 50-47 lead into the fourth quarter.
But Overhills started the fourth quarter on a 17-1 run to reclaim the lead for good and led by double digits the rest of the way.
Boys All-Tournament honors went to Triton’s Shaiheim Strickland, Western Harnett’s Wesley Lassiter, Harnett Central’s Anthony Tomlinson and Tre Williams and Overhills Damion Robinson. Overhills’ Zach Lowery was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
“Last year I played and I scored zero points one game and played like trash,” Lowery said. “So, this means a lot to me to get my senior year off with a bang.”
Harnett Central is at home against Smithfield-Selma and Overhills starts Patriot Athletic 3-A/4-A Conference play at Pine Forest on Friday.