South Johnston took a varsity basketball sweep over visiting Southern Lee on Tuesday night.
The boys game went down to the wire as South Johnston escaped with a 54-49 win.
“We had some moments where we could have given it away,” said South Johnston coach Brody Massengill. “But we hung tough. I’ve got to do a better job getting them prepared for late game stuff like that, because we’ve practiced it, but we haven’t practiced it enough. I think we went maybe 10 or 11 deep tonight and the guys came in and performed. Every one of them. I think that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to have nights where we can play 10 or 11 like that. I was proud of our guys for not wilting when it got close late in the game. I was curious to see how they would handle that and they handled it with confidence. Even when they made mistakes, they did their job.”
Senior C.J. Ray scored 30 points to pace the Trojans (2-0).
“We go through him a lot,” Massengill said. “But he’s learning how to play off the ball and he’s learning how to put himself in situations where he finds a way to get himself open at the right times.”
Thomas Dees had seven points. David Carter, Colby Norris and Cole Winborne had five points apiece. Sam Webster had two points.
Massengill was pleased with the play of Webster and Dylan Bates at the guard position.
“They both played well defensively,” Massengill said. “They’re both similar, but they both bring some different dynamics, too. I think Sam is always a constant guy. He’s very rarely going to turn the ball over. Dylan kind of amps that thing up a little bit when he comes in. He’s fast and he plays with a lot of energy. I think it’s just what we need.”
Junior Logan Hair had 12 points and juniors Ely-Jah Smith and Randall Upchurch, Jr. had 10 points apiece to lead the Cavaliers (1-3).
South struggled in the first quarter as the Cavaliers led 14-6 at the end of the quarter, with all six of South’s points coming from Ray. But the Trojans rallied in the second quarter, outscoring the Cavaliers 18-9 to lead 24-23 at halftime.
The game remained close throughout the second half. With South leading 48-42 late in the fourth, the Cavaliers scored six unanswered to tie the game and South called a timeout with :42.2 left in the quarter.
After the timeout, despite drawing a double-team from the defense, Ray scored to put the Trojans back in front. A questionable foul at the other end sent Upchurch to the free throw line with a chance to tie the game, but he only made one of the two ensuing free throws.
Forced to foul, the Cavaliers sent Webster to the free throw line for a one-and-one and called a timeout with :15.9 remaining. Webster sank both free throws to extend the lead to three.
“He’s a senior. That’s what he’s supposed to do,” Massengill said. “We sat down at the bench and he said ‘I’m going to make it.’ These boys are ready for this moment.”
The Cavaliers turned the ball over on the ensuing possession and fouled Bates. He missed the front end of the ensuing one-and-one, but the rebound went out of bounds off of a Southern Lee player. The ensuing inbounds pass went to Norris, who laid it in to put the game out of reach with two seconds left.
In the girls game, South Johnston bounced back from its first loss of the season on Friday with a 45-32 win.
“We finally put it all together,” said South Johnston coach Whitney Williams. “Still a few areas that we need to work on, as far as turnovers and stuff, but I think they’re finally getting it together. Obviously, we made more free throws tonight than last game (South was 5-of-20 at the line against North Johnston Friday and 8-of-13 Tuesday). And they did do better on turnovers, but that’s still one of our weaker points that we need to work on.”
Junior Janay McDonald had 13 points and senior Kaylee Creech had 10 points to lead the Trojans (2-1).
“We really need those two,” Williams said. “When those two are off, I feel like it leads the team to be off. They definitely stepped up. Janay attacked the basket tonight.”
Williams was pleased with the play of junior Diamond Judkins off of the bench. She provided eight points for South.
“She has the potential to be a really good guard for us this year,” Williams said.
Jenna Brown and McKinley Sills had seven points apiece to round out the scoring for South.
All 13 active members of South’s team saw playing time.
“Any game when you can get all the girls active involved is a good game,” Williams said. “And just once they do things that they haven’t been able to do yet this season, it gets them pumped and it gets the team excited for each other.”
Senior Myah Ainsworth scored 16 points to lead the Cavaliers (1-3).
Brown scored early in the contest and the Trojans held on to the lead the entire game, outscoring the Cavaliers 11-6 in the first quarter, 9-7 in the second, 10-6 in the third and 15-13 in the fourth.
South Johnston travels to Western Harnett on Tuesday.