South Johnston hosted Western Harnett to open varsity basketball season on Wednesday, with the teams splitting the contests. The Eagles won the girls game and the Trojans won the boys game.
A third-quarter surge propelled Western Harnett to a 47-33 win over South Johnston in the girls game.
“Once we figured out that the ball actually goes in the basket, we got better,” said Western Harnett girls coach Matthew Smith. “I was real pleased with every girl. I’ve got five girls that are volleyball that came straight to basketball. Of course, we had a volleyball game last night (Smith is an assistant coach for volleyball), we had a basketball game tonight, we have volleyball tomorrow night and basketball Friday, so these girls are a little tired. But, overall, I’m pleased with how they did in their first game. We’ve got a lot to work on and we’ll get better at it.”
The Trojans were missing several players because of South’s volleyball team being in quarantine for COVID-19, meaning that the girls that play both sports were not available. Several young players, including some junior varsity players, had to step up in their place.
“We had a group of young girls,” said South Johnston girls coach Whitney Williams. “We’re missing five of our girls, three of our starters. So, I’m really proud of what they went out there and showed us. Probably, honestly, that’s one of the hardest games I’ve seen our girls play through. As far as plays, we made quite a few turnovers, but again, they’re young and nerves got to them a little bit. Other than that, I’m proud of what they showed up and did today, especially having been called in yesterday and not even practicing with varsity. They were just called on the spot to come and play.”
Junior Makenyia Mackey had 18 points and freshman Shay McCants had 14 points to lead the Eagles (1-0).
Makyia Mackey had seven points. Sydney Jackson had six points. Nadia Hurry had two points.
“I feel like this is a good team and we’re cohesive,” Smith said. “Everybody gets along and everybody loves seeing another person score. It’s a team that’s easy to coach. Last year’s team was easy to coach. It was a good group of girls. This year, we’re a little younger. It’s a good team and I’m glad my volleyball girls decided to play basketball, because it was looking a little short there for a while.”
Senior Janay McDonald paced the Trojans (0-1) with 14 points.
Diamond Judkins had eight points. Cassie Toler had four points. Madison Carter had three points. Laley Norman had two points. Caroline Mazzotta and Meagan Worley had one point apiece.
After Western took an 8-4 lead in the first quarter, South rallied by outscoring Western 11-7 in the second to tie the game 15-15 at halftime.
But Western took control of the game by outscoring South 18-3 in the third quarter, including 10 points from Makenyia Mackey.
South outscored Western 15-14 in the fourth.
South boys led by McLean
South Johnston won a 69-31 rout over Western Harnett in the boys game.
“With not being able to do anything in the summer and only being able to scrimmage one time, honestly, we just felt fortunate to be out here,” said South Johnston boys coach Brody Massengill. “We were happy to be out here. But also, it was good for us to play people besides ourselves. We played in a little different style than we normally have played. It’s going to get better and better as long as we stay fortunate enough to stay healthy. It was just nice to be out here playing.”
With only three returning players from last year’s varsity team, none of which were starters, Western is looking for some new faces to step up.
“We had quite a bit of new faces,” said Western Harnett coach Seth Womble. “Three returners. One player moved up from the JV level. I believe we would be better than we are right now if we had a summer. We can’t help that. Every coach is having to deal with that, but it’s hit us hard. We had a big senior class graduate last year. So, we’ve just got to keep our heads up, keep trying and working hard every day, have a ‘no quit’ attitude and that’s just kind of the mindset we’ve got to have going forward. We have them again next week, so let’s see if we can change the results.”
“If you take the score away, it was just fun to be out there. No, we didn’t like losing. Nobody likes losing. But it was good to be in competition. But with that said, hopefully tomorrow’s good and the next day’s good. We’ve got to take it one day at a time, because it could get shut down at any moment.”
Senior Jeremiah McLean led the Trojans (1-0) with 27 points.
“Jeremiah’s got a lot of potential,” Massengill said. “He’s got talent. The biggest thing for him is ‘want-to’ and he wanted to tonight. He was an all-conference player last year, so he needs to play like an all-conference player this year. And he just did.”
Dylan Bates had 10 points. Chase Norris had nine points. Tay Watson had seven points. Ricardo Perez had six points. Chase Carroll had five points. Brayden Barefoot and C.J. Redmond had two points. Jaydn McNeill had one point.
Senior Misha-El Vines had 11 points to lead the Eagles (0-1).
Ethan Lank and Christian Fielden had five points apiece. Donavan Thomas had three points. Steven Sabat had two points.
“(Vines) really kind of started to put the team on his back and lift them there in the first quarter and that kind of got everybody going,” Womble said. “We had a stretch there where we weren’t turning the basketball over and were sharing it. And when you share the ball, somebody finds a gap if they’re in a zone or somebody finds a good shot or a layup if they’re in a man-to-man.”
South outscored Western 18-11 in the first quarter, 16-2 in the second and 27-8 in the third. Western outscored South 10-8 in the fourth.
Western Harnett is at home against West Johnston on Friday. South Johnston travels to Western Harnett on Tuesday.