South Johnston split Greater Neuse 3-A Conference varsity basketball games with visiting East Wake on Friday. The Warriors won the boys game, but the Trojans picked up their first win of the season in the girls game.
South Johnston held off a fourth-quarter rally to beat East Wake 40-29 and pick up its first win of the season in the girls game.
“Finally got it under our belts,” said South Johnston girls coach Whitney Williams. “We’ve still got some things to work on. That was an ugly fourth quarter. A lot of turnovers once they turned the pressure up on us. We’ve definitely got to work next week to make sure that we’ve got pressure situations under control.”
A pair of senior guards led the Trojans (1-7, 1-3 GNC) in scoring. Janay McDonald had 11 points and Diamond Judkins had nine points.
“Diamond really stepped up in the beginning,” Williams said. “It was like a cold spurt. We couldn’t get anything started and it took us a while to warm up. And when she went in, she was the one to warm it up for us. And then Janay in that third and fourth quarter, she broke away with it for us.”
Kennedy Byrd had seven points. Caroline Tucker had five points. Jordyn Brown had four points. Meagan Worley and Diana Boykin had two points apiece.
“We definitely shot more tonight,” Williams said. “Going from six shots in the third quarter the other night total, to I know we had at least 12. Just going from that to that, it makes a difference. If we don’t shoot, we can’t score. We’ve got to put the shots up even when we have the pressure defense on us.”
Williams was pleased with her team’s efforts rebounding and keeping East Wake from getting second chance opportunities.
“We haven’t had many practices this week, but that’s what we’ve been honed in on the most,” Williams said. “If we stop teams from getting second, third, fourth, fifth and so on chances to shoot, that limits their chances of scoring. We really had to focus on boxing out and rebounding. Our girls in the post are younger. Katon (Blackmon), she’s out with a concussion, so that’s our senior post. That leaves us with all sophomore posts down there. They’re working hard. Some of these girls are bigger than them, but they’re working hard down there.”
Ze’Asia Gupton had 14 points to pace the Warriors (0-7, 0-4).
With the score tied 4-4 in the first quarter, Judkins and Byrd each scored to give South an 8-4 lead at the end of the quarter.
South dominated the second quarter, going on a 17-3 run, capped by a buzzer-beating three from Tucker for a 25-7 lead.
“Definitely gave us some momentum and some hype,” Williams said. “It definitely changed the energy for them.”
After South outscored East Wake 9-6 in the third quarter to lead 34-13, the Warriors had a rally fall short in the fourth, outscoring the Trojans 16-6.
A strong first-half performance powered East Wake to a 67-45 lead over South Johnston in the boys game.
“In my opinion, and we haven’t played Cleveland yet, but, I thought the whole year that that was going to be the best team in the whole conference,” said South Johnston boys coach Brody Massengill. “And if they’re not, they’re close and they played like it. We could never match their energy. We couldn’t match their intensity. And we really lost on the boards. We got beat up on the boards. They shot a lot of shots until they made them. We just didn’t play well early and it just kind of took it out of us. You could see it kind of sucked the life out of us.”
Senior Jeremiah McLean and junior Ricardo Perez had eight points apiece to lead the Trojans (5-2, 2-2).
“In the first half I didn’t think it was as good,” Massengill said. “But then in the second half, I kind of told (Perez) that if he wanted to be on the floor that he was going to have to play defense, too. And it was like his attitude changed in the second half and he really gave us some big minutes.”
Tay Watson, Chase Carroll, C.J. Redmond and Nick Jackson had six points apiece and Chase Norris had five points.
Senior Jayvon Mercer had 24 points and senior Jeremiah Crudup and junior R.J. Vick had 10 points apiece to lead the Warriors (5-2, 3-1).
East Wake outscored South 20-11 in the first quarter, 16-6 in the second and 18-15 in the third. Both teams scored 13 points in the fourth quarter.
“We played kind of even with them in the second half,” Massengill said. “We picked up our intensity. But it’s just hard to climb out of a 20-point hole at halftime.”
South Johnston’s boys have been without junior guard Jaydn McNeill because he has been in the hospital battling illness. He last played in the Trojans’ game against Triton on Jan. 15, in which he was one of the team’s leading scorers, with 11 points. The team has been carrying his jersey out of the locker room when they take the court and draping it over a seat on the bench in support of him at every game. Massengill said they recently received positive news about his condition.
“He’s been sick,” Massengill said. “He’s been in the hospital for a couple of weeks now. He’s been hooked up to a ventilator. Kind of some post-COVID stuff going on. But we had a praise report today that he came off of the ventilator and tonight he was eating regular food. So, he’s made a good turn. This community’s had a lot of support and a lot of prayers for him. You’ve seen the jersey sitting with us and our guys miss him. It’s been a tough deal, but we’re glad that it sounds like he’s coming out of it.”
South Johnston travels to conference and Johnston County rival Cleveland on Tuesday.