With Triton’s varsity boys basketball team playing for the first time this season after having to quarantine for COVID-19, South Johnston took a 72-49 win over the visiting Hawks on Friday.
“I think one thing that helped us out was (Triton coach) T.J. (Morrison) didn’t get a lot of time to practice with them because they’ve been quarantined the past 14 days,” said South Johnston coach Brody Massengill. “I told my guys in the locker room that when we get to Jan. 27 and we play them again (a game at Triton postponed from Jan. 8), it’ll be a different team. We had a game plan to try to outrun them a little bit because they hadn’t been practicing as much. So, we tried to push the tempo and we did a good job.”
Triton coach T.J. Morrison said his team made too many costly mistakes.
“I think we were down 10 at the half,” Morrison said. “To look up and see that, we really didn’t play well at all and were still realistically in the game, so that was a plus. We made a lot of mistakes. I told the guys, ‘I can live with a mistake. We’re all human beings. We all mess up. But don’t make me call it out a second time.’ You make a mistake. You recognize it. You fix it. But we kept making a lot of those same mistakes over and over. We didn’t execute a lot of things. It was not pretty. It almost looked like an early season scrimmage, rather than a regular season game for us.”
Senior Dylan Bates had the hot hand for the Trojans (3-0) on Friday, scoring 24 points, including hitting six three-pointers.
“He shot the ball unbelievable tonight,” Massengill said. “It always helps when you have a guy come out and perform like that.”
Senior Jeremiah McLean, with 14 points, and junior Jaydn McNeill, with 11 points, also scored in double figures for South.
Tay Watson had seven points. Ricardo Perez had six points. Brayden Barefoot and Chase Norris had four points apiece. C.J. Redmond had two points.
“I think they’re getting a lot more comfortable with each other,” Massengill said. “They’re playing unselfish right now. They’re starting to rely on each other in a lot of different situations.”
Senior Dalen Thompson had 18 points and four rebounds to pace the Hawks (0-1).
Jamari Amerson had eight points, four rebounds and three assists. Jalen Evans had eight points and six rebounds. Nate McKoy had five points and four rebounds. Will Heard had five points. Harris Pope had three points and four rebounds. Sabine Wheeler had two points. Hayden Pope had four rebounds and three blocks.
“Originally at the beginning of the year, I thought, maybe, we’d keep two sophomores (on varsity),” Morrison said. “Actually, we have four. So, that’s been a little different. This is a good group of kids and I thought they were making a lot of progress and then they get shut down for 14 days. You’ve kind of taken a step back a little bit. We’ve just got to make some adjustments and fill some holes.”
South opened the game on a 10-2 run before Triton rallied with eight unanswered points to tie the game 10-10. But South ended the first quarter on a 9-4 run to lead 19-14 at the end of the quarter.
South started the second quarter with 10 unanswered points and maintained a lead of at least nine the rest of the quarter. The Trojans led 37-27 at halftime.
South controlled the second half, outscoring Triton 18-10 in the third quarter and 17-12 in the fourth.
Triton is at Lee County (0-1) to open Tri-County Six 3-A Conference play on Tuesday.
“We don’t normally practice on Saturday after a Friday night game,” Morrison said. “But we’re going to practice tomorrow, practice Monday and try to get a little better each day.”
South Johnston starts Greater Neuse 3-A Conference play at Johnston County rival Clayton (3-1) on Wednesday.
“I think our conference is going to be good,” Massengill said. “West (Johnston) and SSS (Smithfield-Selma) have been kind of at the bottom, but I think those guys have improved. And I think Cleveland, East Wake and Clayton are all going to be really good teams, so you’d better bring it every night.”