Overhills, the defending champion in both the boys and girls Harnett County Tipoff Tournament, advanced to the championships again Monday with wins over host Harnett Central.
In the girls game, a rematch of last year’s championship, a late surge helped Overhills edge Central in a 30-24 defensive battle.
“We still have a lot to work on,” said first-year Overhills girls coach Brittany Kiley. “We had three people with three fouls in the first half. We had to make some adjustments that we weren’t planning on. Second half we settled back into a zone to try to keep them at our pace, but still pressure them and it worked out in our favor.”
Harnett Central girls coach Chelsey Cabe cited missed free throws as the key factor in the loss.
“It’s hard to win when you’re 4-for-21 from the free throw line,” Cabe said. “I think we played really well. I think that sets a good standard. I thought Syniah (McMiller) played awesome offensively and defensively. We just couldn’t buy a basket tonight. Had some go in. Had some come out. But you lose by six and you only make 4-for-21 free throws. I think that’s pretty self-explanatory.”
Senior Kiana Jones and sophomore J’Kyah Kelley paced the Jaguars (1-0) with 14 points apiece and Janiah Gary-Cole had two points.
“(Jones) has improved tremendously from last year,” Kiley said. “She’s in much better shape than she ended the season last year. She worked a lot over the summer and softball has a lot to credit for that. She’s a lot more aggressive this year and being in better shape helps that a lot.”
Sophomore Brittany Mills led all scorers with 15 points, Syniah McMiller had five points and Keanna Womble and Marcayla Jones had two points apiece for the Trojans (0-1).
“(Mills) played great,” Cabe said. “But she’s got a little maturing to do as far as controlling the ball and knowing she’s in control on the floor. When she finds that confidence in herself and she realized how good she truly is and stops second guessing herself, I think she’s going to amaze us even more than she already amazes us. But she’s got a really successful future if she keeps working as hard as she does.”
Overhills held a 15-10 lead going into the third quarter when Central went on a 9-4 run, with a Mills three tying the game at 19.
But Overhills responded with a 10-0 run that began in the third quarter and ended in the fourth to take the lead for good.
The boys game was also a close battle, with Overhills rallying in the second half to take a 63-58 win over Central.
“I think it was a tale of two halves,” said Overhills boys coach Tony Lewis. “I thought we were a little nervous in the first half. Second half, I think the kids just loosened up and played a little bit. We’re going to have some growing pains, but this is a good experience for us. We’ve got plenty to clean up, but a win to start the season is always good.”
Harnett Central boys coach Will Gage felt the effort was there, but not the execution for his team.
“I thought our guys played hard until the end,” Gage said. “It would have been easy to hang it up with 40 seconds left, but I thought we battled to the end. I didn’t feel like we played well enough to win. I didn’t think defensively we did what we needed to do and I felt like offensively we made some bad decisions. I thought we competed, but we’ve got to cut down on turnovers and our half-court defense was not very good.”
Sophmore Cinque Lemon had 28 points, senior Lexuus Fasce had 14 points and junior Zachary Lowery had 11 points to lead the Jaguars (1-0).
“I think Cinque stepped up with some big shots and I thought Lexuus played well all night,” Lewis said.
Jase Ford and Jaylen Moore had four points apiece and Truman Clayton had two points.
Junior Tylor Davis had 11 points and senior Chase Mullins had 10 to lead the Trojans (0-1).
Justin Perkins had nine points. Trevonne Williams had eight points. Anthony Tomlinson had seven points. Austin Swan had five points. Kasey Perkins had four points. Hayden Smith had two points. Croix Shipman and Kaleb Darden had one point apiece.
Both schools have mostly new teams this year, with Central’s Mullins, Smith, Kasey Perkins, Justin Perkins and Jaden Meadows and Overhills’ Lemon and Moore being the only returners from their respective varsity squads last year.
“It’s a completely new team,” Lewis said. “We’ve got two kids back from last year’s team and we’re just learning each other. We’re still trying to find chemistry.”
A strong first half saw Central take a 29-22 lead at the half, but Overhills outscored Central 18-11 in the third quarter to tie the game at 40.
During the final minute of play, Williams cut an Overhills lead to 58-56 and fouled Lemon, his fifth. As he exited the court, he was also called for a controversial technical foul apparently for untucking his jersey’s shirt tail before completely leaving the court. Lemon made all four of the ensuing free throws and one of two after being fouled on the free possession from the technical to push the lead to 63-56, putting the game out of reach for the Trojans.
Both teams will have a week off before playing again and await the results of Tuesday’s game between Triton and Western Harnett at Central.
Harnett Central will face the losing team in the consolation game at 5:30 p.m. at Campbell on Monday.
Overhills will seek its sixth straight Tipoff championship when it faces the Triton-Western winner at 8 p.m. at Campbell on Monday.