Central girls, South boys stay hot

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South Johnston split its varsity basketball games at Harnett Central on Tuesday night in a clash of the Trojans. Central’s girls (4-1) cruised to a 61-14 victory, while South’s boys (4-0) never trailed in a 60-49 win. Both winning parties are currently on a four-game win streak.

‘You love to see all of your girls’

South got the opening bucket in the girls’ game on Miracle Austin’s layup, but Central dominated the rest of the way. Central led 16-4 at the end of the first quarter and followed that up with an even more lopsided second quarter, taking a 35-7 lead into halftime. Central claimed a 51-11 lead heading into the fourth quarter, which was played with a running clock.

South struggled all night to find good shots against Central’s pressure, giving up 23 steals to the hosts. Central also crushed them on the offensive glass, racking up 12 offensive rebounds.

“I would say offensive rebounds, especially in the second quarter, really separated us before halftime,” said Central head coach Chelsey Cabe. “That’s nice, but it’s got to be consistent through the whole game.”

Sophomore point guard Brittany Mills led the way for Central with 21 points to go with six steals, three rebounds and three assists.

“With every game, Brittany has the skills, but her knowledge is what’s getting better,” Cabe said. “Her realization that she controls the offense, but really she sets the tone for us defensively, as well. The more she matures and learns that, the even better ball player she’s going to be. I was a point guard, so I’m going to be super critical of what she does, but I’m really impressed with how far she’s come along just this far in the season.”

Mills was the only player in double figures, but all 10 players on Central’s roster contributed points for the second time already this season. Syniah McMiller posted nine points to go with five rebounds and three blocks. Fayth Brown had seven points and two steals. Lyanah Molyneau had five points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals. Madeline Langdon had four points and a team-high six rebounds. Aleecya Williams and Zykia Matthews also had four points each. Keanna Womble had three points, and Lyndsey Brewer and Marcayla Jones each had two points.

“That keeps them working hard,” Cabe said. “You love to see all of your girls. All of them may not score all of the time and all of them may not get the playing time that they want, but they all work so hard every day, it’s nice when you can do that, for that to pay off for them.”

Austin led South with four points, all of which came in the first quarter. Kennedy Byrd and Mattie Wheeless each had three points, and Emma Jernigan and Savannah Parker each had two points.

South (0-4) is still hunting its first win of the season. It won’t get any easier though, as they’ll visit an undefeated Midway (6-0) today.

“It’s a mentality thing for them right now,” said South head coach Whitney Williams. “[South’s record was] 2-23 last year. So, it’s almost like it’s something that’s sunk in for them. We’re just trying to get them out of that mentality.”

Central will host West Johnston today. They won a tight game 38-32 on the Wildcats home court last Friday.

“We didn’t play very well against West the other night,” Cabe said. “We have really been focusing on moving the ball against a zone and realizing that you’re not stationary. When you pass the ball, you need to move. So, we’re going to focus on that and hit hard on not getting beat in transition, boxing out and talking on defense.”

‘It was awesome’

Two keys spurts made all the difference in the boys’ game.

South led 17-16 when Central called a timeout with 2:06. That’s when Jacob Thornton, South’s senior marksman, caught fire. Thornton had an explosive 15-point first half last Tuesday against Western Harnett, but left the game early with an injured ankle. That forced him to miss Friday’s rivalry game against Triton. Thornton made up for lost time, though, knocking down back-to-back triples. South closed out the half with an 8-2 run, giving them a 25-18 lead heading into the locker room.

South called a timeout with 3:23 left in the third after Central had a 5-0 spurt to cut the deficit to 31-26. It looked like the perfect time for Central to go on a run, with South’s postmaster general C.J. Ray on the bench with foul trouble. But instead, South went on a 10-2 run to close out the quarter. Sam Webster hit back-to-back 3-pointers, the second on the run just before the buzzer sounded, to give South its biggest lead of the game at 41-28 heading into the fourth.

“It was awesome,” South head coach Brody Massengill said of that stretch. “We can go 10 or 11 deep. That’s what we want to do. They’ve got to be ready when their number’s called. It’s cliché to say that, but that’s the way it is. The couple of threes that Sam hit were huge, just to give us a little bit of a cushion.”

Central tried to mount a comeback with a 5-0 run to start the fourth quarter, but South responded with back-to-back buckets.

“They’re well coached,” Central head coach Will Gage said of South. “They’re a disciplined team. They very seldom take bad shots. You dig yourself a hole against a smart team and things are going to have to break your way to come back on them. They’re not going to just collapse. They’re disciplined. They outplayed us both inside and outside.”

Massengill was happy with his team’s effort, but felt like they caught Central on an off night.

“I really thought they (Central) didn’t shoot it as well as what I’ve heard they’ve shot a little bit,” said South Johnston coach Brody Massengill. “That was fortunate on our part. I did not like that they stayed in those zone sets most of the game and I thought we got very lazy passing the ball. I thought we relaxed too much. We had eight turnovers going into halftime and that ain’t the way we can play. But our effort doesn’t ever stop. That’s one thing we take pride in is the effort we’re playing with ... . I do also know that [Central coach] Will [Gage] does a great job, and that wasn’t their best stuff.”

Ray led all scorers 21 points, including all eight of South’s points in the opening quarter.

“I think its always a positive for us if we can get him some easy buckets early,” Massengill said about Ray. “We really focused on that. In all kinds of phases of the game we wanted to get him touches where he could be successful.”

Senior point guard JaQuain Smith added 12 points, including a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line. Thornton finished with eight points. Webster had six points, Clayton Blackman had five points, Jacson Raynor had three points and Colby Norris had one point.

Central had three players finish in double figures. Trevonne Williams led with 17 points, and Anthony Tomlinson and Chase Mullins each had 10 points.

Jaden Meadows added five points. Kasey Perkins and Jackson Jones each had three points, and Croix Shipman had one point.

Central (2-3) will look to right the ship today as they host West Johnston. Central one the first matchup at West 68-39.

“We’re five games in and we haven’t had a whole lot of consistency,” Gage said. “But what consistency we’ve had has been dictated by our defense. The nights where we play defense well, we’re in a lot of games.”

South will look to stay undefeated today as they’ll play at Midway (3-3). South won the first matchup at home by a comfortable 24-point margin, but the Raiders seem to have improved massively since then. Midway lost 95-70 last Wednesday at home against Princeton, but on Tuesday only lost 85-81 on the Bulldogs’ court.

“I’ve looked at some of their scores and they’re playing much better, it seems like,” Massengill said. “They’re scoring a lot of points. I think they’ll try to speed us up, which most people do. Our effort was great [tonight], but we’ve definitely got some things we’ve got to clean up. We’ve got to be able to see what the defense is in. We prepare hard for that stuff, but we’ve got to react to it in the game, too.”

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