Meeting for the second game in a row, South Johnston and Western Harnett split varsity basketball games again, with the homestanding Eagles winning the girls game and the visiting Trojans winning the boys game Tuesday.
A strong first quarter powered Western Harnett to a 35-17 win over South Johnston in the girls game.
“I’m proud of them,” said Western Harnett girls coach Matthew Smith. “Offensively, we were a little slow tonight. But defensively, defense is where I think we really turn it up. We worked hard in our last practice to get better defensively and we still want to get better defensively. We were trying to throw in some different things. We’re very athletic at spots this year where we haven’t been in the past few years. Overall, offensively we can get better and defensively we’re going to get better, but I thought we played better tonight.”
South Johnston girls coach Whitney Williams cited cold shooting as a major factor in the loss.
“We couldn’t hit the right side of a brick barn,” Williams said. “It just wasn’t there for us tonight, between shots not falling and not getting the rebound.”
The Eagles’ 2-0 start is the first for a Western girls basketball team since the 2010-2011 season.
Junior Makenyia Mackey had 10 points and sophomore Sydney Jackson and freshman Shay McCants had eight points apiece to lead the Eagles.
Makyia Mackey had five points and Trinity Gaither and Nadia Hurry had two points apiece.
Senior Janay McDonald had six points and sophomore Laley Norman had five points to lead the Trojans (0-2).
Williams also liked the energy Norman brought to the game and the defense she played.
“Energy,” Williams said. “We put her at the top of that 1-2-2 (defense) and she was doing her job stopping the ball. She was getting steals and getting back down the court. Definitely when we can get younger ones to step in and take that role, it’s always beneficial to us.”
Kennedy Byrd had three points. Madison Carter had two points. Meagan Worley had one point.
Western shut out South 12-0 in the first quarter. The Eagles also outscored the Trojans 7-5 in the second quarter, 6-5 in the third and 10-7 in the fourth.
After a competitive first half, South Johnston pulled away in the second half to take a 59-31 win over Western Harnett in the boys game.
“I didn’t like our energy in the first half,” said South Johnston boys coach Brody Massengill. “It’s tough sometimes when we played as well as we did the first time we played them to come back out and kids are going to be kids. But I really thought (Western coach) Seth (Womble) did a good job with his kids with a different game plan. They really played well in the first half.
“I felt like they made the game hard on us with a kind of an ugly tempo and really didn’t allow us to do some of the things we wanted to do. I felt like our guys brought definitely more energy in the second half. We won some defensive battles. We only gave up 11 points in the second half. I felt like we made it harder on them. We’ve got a long way to go, but as long as we stay healthy, I feel like we’ve got the guys to get better.”
Western Harnett boys coach Seth Womble was pleased with his team’s first-half play but said the Eagles could not maintain the energy level.
“We started with great energy,” Womble said. “It was hard to sustain the energy. We don’t have a very deep bench. It was hard to sustain that level of energy. I was proud of the way we battled in the first half. We’ve got to, I guess, get in better shape and see if we can go deeper into the game. They started pressuring us a little bit man-to-man and our guys were not in the right spots.
“So, we started forcing the issue a little bit because they were putting the pressure on us. I was pleased overall. We got some things we were looking for. We missed quite a bit of layups and there were a few jump shots that we had good looks that just didn’t go down. That’s just how basketball is sometimes.”
Senior Jeremiah McLean had 14 points and junior C.J. Redmond had 12 points to lead the Trojans (2-0).
“(McLean) missed a lot of chippies tonight and he’s kind of frustrated with himself,” Massengill said. “But he kept running the floor and getting into his mind that some nights as a basketball player, if you don’t have it, you’ve got to do other things and that’s sort of what he was doing.
“Big night for C.J. His teammates were really giving him the pat on the back in the locker room, because he really brought us, in the second half, an energy that started a run. He played really well on defense, which led to his offensive points, which is what he has to do. He’s very athletic and has a lot of opportunities to steal the basketball with his athleticism.”
Ricardo Perez had eight points. Jaydn McNeill had seven points. Tay Watson and Chase Carroll had six points apiece. Brayden Barefoot had four points. Dylan Bates had two points.
Senior Misha-El Vines led the Eagles (0-2) with 10 points.
Sebastian Branford had six points. Ethan Lank and Ian Bristow had five points apiece. Donavan Thomas and Tyler Brown had two points apiece. Landon Smith had one point.
South outscored Western in all four quarters: 11-10 in the first, 14-10 in the second, 14-5 in the third and 20-6 in the fourth.
South Johnston travels to nonconference rival Triton on Friday.
Western Harnett’s girls have a nonconference game at West Johnston on Wednesday. There will only be junior varsity boys and varsity girls games, because Western does not have a JV girls team and West’s varsity boys team is in quarantine for COVID-19. Western Harnett starts Tri-County Six 3-A Conference play at home against Southern Lee on Tuesday.