Meeting for the third time this season and the second in Tri-County Six 3-A Conference play, Harnett Central split varsity basketball contests with visiting Harnett County rival Western Harnett on Tuesday, with Central’s girls picking up their third win over the Eagles, but Western’s boys denying the Trojans a season sweep.
After a competitive first quarter, Harnett Central dominated the remainder of the girls game, taking a 43-19 win over Western Harnett.
With Harnett Central girls coach Catherine Griffin still out with illness, Chelsey Cabe has returned to the head coaching position. She also coached the team in a 45-43 loss at Union Pines Friday.
“At the Union Pines game, our full court defense, I love pressure defense. I want to play full court all the way, all we’ve got,” Cabe said. “I told the girls that after seeing that fire from them (Friday) after only practicing with them for two days, I just was so looking forward to watching that tonight. And I told them they did some great things tonight. But two of the main things we focused on at practice yesterday were rebounding and pressure defense. And as far as our pressure defense, when we went to that 1-2-2, I thought Brittany did a great job at the top of the key, but our full court defense just didn’t look like it did Friday night. Offensive rebounds killed us, too. That’s something we’ve got to focus on.”
Junior Brittany Mills had 11 points and junior Syniah McMiller had 10 points to lead the Trojans (14-4, 5-2 TCSC).
Cabe thought the defensive and rebounding efforts of lone senior Madeline Langdon and sophomore JoNese Monroe were a major factor for Central.
“Madeline is so consistent,” Cabe said. “She’s a role player. She’s going to work hard. She’s going to get you some rebounds. She’s on the floor after balls. Madeline’s kind of like your silent leader. She’s not going to say a whole lot, but the girls know that at the end of the day, they can rely on her. JoNese I thought went in and did fantastic. We were getting beat so bad on the offensive rebound, they were getting two or three a possession, I went to the bench and I looked at JoNese and asked, ‘Can you box out and rebound?’ She said, ‘Yes I can.’ So, I put her in and why take her out if she’s doing what I asked her to? I thought she did a fantastic job. It just goes to show that every girl has a role and if you go in and you play that role and do your job, you contribute to your team. It’s whatever you need at that time and that’s what we needed, so I was really proud of JoNese.”
Lya Molyneaux had nine points. Langdon had seven points. Monroe had three points. Jamia Harrington had two points. Shynice Raines had one point.
The Eagles (2-18, 0-7) were led by senior Emonni Barber, with nine points.
Makayla Bailey had six points and Sydney Jackson and Ashanta Williams had two points apiece.
Central outscored Western in all four quarters: 13-9 in the first, 12-6 in the second, 7-2 in the third and 11-2 in the fourth.
After coming up just short in an overtime loss at home against Harnett Central in their first conference meeting on Jan. 17, Western Harnett took a close win on Tuesday, edging Harnett Central 60-57.
“It’s nerve wracking down the stretch,” said Western Harnett boys coach Seth Womble. “But our guys make it entertaining. These close games, they’re fun. I’m glad we’re on the right side this time. We played them to overtime last time and lost. This time we had a close one and I thought the last shot was going to go in and luckily it missed and we took the W. So, I’m very, very happy about that.”
Harnett Central boys coach Will Gage said rebounding and transition defense were key factors in the loss.
“A couple of things that we talked about over the course of the game just came back to haunt us,” Gage said. “One, I said while we were doing a decent job of contesting the first shot, they were repeatedly getting second chances and I thought that was going to kill us. That and a lot of times not getting back on defense in transition. And we did get a look at it at the end, but it’s just that they just outplayed us. I said when the season started that anybody can beat anybody in the league and I thought they had more quality possessions than we did, especially in the fourth quarter. And a lot of times, we got it where we wanted it and just didn’t convert.”
Sophomore Steven Lassiter paced the Eagles (4-16, 2-5) with 20 points.
“He’s been a great player for us all year,” Womble said. “But I thought tonight was very balanced offensively for us. We had several people step up and play either the best game they’ve had defensively or the best game they’ve had offensively tonight.”
Seniors Kahlil McLean and Wesley Lassiter also reached double figures, with 10 points apiece.
Womble said junior Ethan Lank made several key scores off of the bench in the second half for Western. He finished with seven points.
“We were kind of spacing the floor and not really trying to waste some clock, but trying to be smarter with the basketball,” Womble said. “And when those guys decided to get it done, we hit Kahlil inside and he makes one of the best passes he made all year to a cutter. That was Ethan and he just laid it right in. I know one time Ethan was standing there for an offensive rebound and he literally jumped probably two inches to lay it back in because he was in the right spot at the right time and it was so easy for him to lay it back in. He’s a smart player. I was happy that he got some minutes tonight and he stepped up when his number was called.”
Christian Dantzler had eight points. Sean Moore had five points.
All nine Eagles played in the contest, and Womble thought all nine contributed in some way to the win.
“That’s what we are, we’re a team,” Womble said. “So, when your number’s called, let’s get ready to play. Go in and I just ask that we don’t turn the basketball over, we have great effort and we play defense. So, if you can do those things, you can play.”
A trio of seniors led the Trojans (10-8, 4-3). Anthony Tomlinson had 23 points and four rebounds, Justin Perkins had 12 points and 12 rebounds and Tre Williams had 11 points, five rebounds and three steals.
Croix Shipman had five points and four rebounds. Austin Swan had four points. Deandre Morris had two points.
After Central jumped out to a 19-9 lead at the end of the first quarter, Western chipped away at the lead, outscoring Central 16-11 in the second quarter and 16-12 in the third to cut it to 42-41 heading into the final frame.
With the scored tied at 48 early in the fourth quarter, Western took the lead for good on a pair of scores from Steven Lassiter and Lank.
After a pair of Steven Lassiter free throws late in the fourth gave the Eagles a 58-52 lead, Shipman was fouled while attempting a three-pointer and sank all three free throws and a turnover on the ensuing inbounds pass led to a Tomlinson score to cut the lead to just one.
After a pair of Dantzler free throws pushed the lead back to three, Swan’s game-tying three attempt hit off the rim, but the rebound went out of bounds off of the Eagles with two seconds left. Central got the ball in to Williams, who got another game-tying attempt off before the buzzer, but it was just off of the mark.
Western Harnett is at home against conference and county rival Triton and Harnett Central is at conference foe Lee County on Friday.