South Johnston fans were treated to a pair of varsity basketball wins on Tuesday. The girls looked fairly comfortable in a 45-32 win, while the boys had to sweat out a 54-49 victory.
Ray continues to shine
South led most of the second half in the boys game, but a late spurt by Southern Lee tied the game at 48-48 with 47.4 seconds to go.
“We had some moments where we could have given it away,” said South boys 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.”
Still, with the game on the line, South got the job done. And it all started with senior big man C.J. Ray, who finished with 30 points and scored the game-winner with 30 seconds left on a floater in the lane.
“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.”
Other players stepped up for South as well. After Southern Lee only made one of two free throws following Ray’s go-ahead basket, senior point guard Sam Webster knocked down two crucial free throws — his first points of the game — with 15.9 on the clock, giving South a 52-49 lead.
“He’s a senior. That’s what he’s supposed to do,” Massengill said. “We sat down at the bench and I said, ‘After Sam makes this free throw,’ and he looked at me and said, ‘I’m gonna make it.’”
Massengill praised the play of both Webster and his backup, Dylan Bates.
“They both played well, defensively,” Massengill said. “They’re both similar, but they both bring some different dynamics, too. I think Sam is always that constant. 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.”
Colby Norris tacked on the final 2 points on a layup off of an inbounds play as the buzzer sounded, giving him 5 on the night.
Thomas Dees (7 points), Cole Winborne (5 points) and D.J. Carter (5 points) also contributed in big moments for South.
“Those minutes D.J. played were huge,” Massengill said. “Because we had some guys who struggled that had a good night (Friday), and other guys stepped up. That’s what you want out of your team. I tell my guys all the time, ‘Your number’s gonna be called, and you’ve got to be ready when it gets called.’”
Massengill said he felt Tuesday’s game was a good test for his team early in the season.
“I think we went maybe 10 or 11 deep tonight and the guys came in and performed,” Massengill said. “Every one of them... 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.
“These guys want to win,” he added. “You can see it in practice every day. They know the expectation of what it’s been and they’re trying to live up to it. We’re going to fight for every one we play.”
Everyone gets involved
While the boys went down to the wire, South’s girls jumped out to a 13-6 lead in the first quarter and a 20-13 lead at halftime, and the margin never got any closer than 7 in the second half.
“We finally put it all together,” said South Johnston coach Whitney Williams, just four days after the Trojans struggled in a 39-24 loss to North Johnston.
“There are 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,” she continued. “Obviously, we made more free throws tonight than last game (South was 5-of-20 in Friday’s and 8-of-13 in Tuesday’s win). And they did do better on (limiting) 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 in double figures.
“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, and Janay attacked the basket more tonight.”
Williams was also pleased with the play of junior Diamond Judkins, who showed a nice midrange shooting stroke with 8 points off the bench.
“She has the potential to be a really good guard for us this year,” Williams said.
Jenna Brown and McKinley Sills each chipped in 7 points to round out a balanced scoring night for South. And all 13 players saw time on the court.
“Any game when you can get all the girls active, involved is a good game,” Williams said. “And once they start to 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.”
Next up, both South teams will travel to Western Harnett on Tuesday.