Triton freshman guard JaNiah Smith enjoyed a career night in the team's second matchup with in-county foe Overhills this season.
SPRING LAKE — Triton's girls basketball team made nine 3-pointers as they beat Overhills on the road Friday, 53-35, in an All American Conference matchup.
Lady Hawks (8-2, 2-2 AAC) freshman guard JaNiah Smith and sophomore guard A’Shari Washington were a dynamic duo in the backcourt.
Smith scored a season-high 25 points and made four baskets from behind the arc while Washington scored 17 points and made three from behind the arc.
Overhills (7-6, 2-3 AAC) had a game plan on defense to make Triton be patient on offense and see if they could hit enough 3's to win the game.
“It’s just how the game played out. Thank God the 3's were failing our way tonight,” Triton head coach Richard Rozier said.
Overhills head coach Nick Lewis gave credit to Triton for making their shots.
“They shot the ball well tonight. They lived by it (the 3) tonight so when they’re hitting shots, there is not much you can do,” Lewis said.
Triton had the slight lead to end the first quarter, but both teams had a hard time finding a rhythm with each team committing turnovers.
Overhills played in-county rival Western Harnett just the previous day, while Triton hadn’t played in a week and a half.
Coach Rozier commented that it showed.
“Game speed is just different," he said.
“You can try to simulate things in practice, but you can’t. Sometimes you got to get knocked on your tail a couple of times and then just hit a couple of shots to get going."
Coach Lewis agreed they had tired legs from playing back-to-back games.
“I think that was part of the problem– couldn’t get our legs under us. But it’s been a long week and it’s good to see what we do with our backs against the wall. Credit to Triton, they are a very good team,” Lewis said.
In the second quarter, it was Smith who helped extend the lead for Triton by making four 3-pointers and scoring 12 points to put Triton up by 13 at the half.
Overhills wasn’t going to go down without a fight as they started making baskets.
However, for every shot or good play that Overhills made, Triton always had an answer, including Washington banking in a deep 3-point basket near the edge of the logo to extend the lead to 15 points to end the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Overhills cut the deficit to 11 with four and a half minutes left.
Then Triton, as they did all night, responded and made back-to-back baskets to extend the lead to 16 with three minutes left.
“I had mentally prepared my ladies and I said they were going to make a run and we were prepared for whenever they made a run,” Rozier said.
Overhills defeated Triton 57-51 on Friday to remain undefeated in conference play.
Seniors Damien Robinson and Ayden Gittens each scored 16 points to lead the Jags (11-1, 4-0 AAC).
The last time these two teams played in the Bennie Pollock Memorial Tournament, Overhills won easily.
This time, Overhills head coach Michael Stephens knew it would be a tough battle.
“I was really impressed with Triton and I told the guys all week that Triton was going to be a tough game,” Stephens said.
“I was proud that they responded and continued to fight.”
After a slow start for both teams, the Jags made a couple of fastbreak layups to lead by eight at the end of the first quarter.
They carried that momentum into the second quarter and extended their lead.
However, Triton went on a run to cut the deficit to single digits before the half was over.
Overhills' length and size gave Triton problems finishing around the rim in the first half.
Despite the struggles in the first half, Triton stuck to their game plan of attacking the rim in the second half and it paid off as the Hawks got to the free-throw line often and opened the quarter with a 7-2 run.
“Early on we struggled, but we told our guys we got to go up strong to the basket and I was really proud of our efforts,” Triton head coach T.J. Morrison said.
“It’s good to compete with a team like that."
After giving up a 6-0 run to the Jags, Hawks junior Nathan McKoy, who scored 16 points, outscored the Jags 6-3 in the final minutes of the third quarter to trim the deficit to seven.
In the fourth quarter, despite McKoy being in foul trouble, Triton cut the deficit to just four with around three minutes left.
The pivotal point of the game was when Overhills was up by five and they missed their second free throw attempt.
Triton turned the ball over and McKoy fouled out of the game with 1:50 left.
Overhills junior Jamar James made a short mid-range basket to give the Jags breathing room.
Triton was able to cut the deficit to four again with 29.6 seconds left, got a steal, but missed a layup to make it a one-possession game.
Coach Stephens knows since this team is good, they have a target on their back going forward.
“I think we definitely have a target on our back, but we’re not the only good team in this conference,” he said.
“It all comes down to who shows up."
On Tuesday, Jan. 18, Overhills plays at Pine Forest with the winner moving into first place in the conference while Triton hosts in-country rival Harnett Central.