South Johnston’s varsity basketball teams pulled off an impressive local head-to-head sweep over Midway on Monday. The Lady Trojans put together one of their best efforts of the season to knock off the Raiders 43-28, while South’s boys were able to overcome ice cold shooting in the final three quarters thanks to a red hot start, propelling them to a 53-44 victory.
Piecing it all together
South’s girls had a rocky start to the season, but the Trojans are finally starting to show signs of piecing it all together. On Monday, the Trojans did a good job of moving the ball to get good shots and limiting Midway’s fast break opportunities by getting back on defense and securing the first rebound. The end result? A comprehensive victory over a team that already has 10 wins on the young season.
“I think they’re finally learning the different points of the defense,” said South girls coach Whitney Williams. “Some of the teams we’ve gone up against have had some really talented girls and we’ve struggled. But tonight we did a good job.”
Junior forward Katon Blackmon and senior center McKinley Sills had 8 points apiece to lead South. Sills has been a consistently solid presence for the Trojans on the interior. But Blackmon, who’s more of a volleyball player than a basketball player, has started to come on as of late and provide South with a spark off the bench.
“Katon’s really stepped up for us these past few games,” Williams said. “Not only on (defensive) rebounds but also on putbacks. I think she’s done a really good job of stepping in and taking over down low in the post.”
Overall, it was a balanced scoring night for South with 10 different players getting in on the action. Janay McDonald chipped in 6 points on a pair of 3-pointers. Mattie Wheeless had 5 points off the bench. Jenna Brown and Kaylee Creech each had 4 points. Madison Cole had 3 points. Kennedy Byrd and Nikki Lee had 2 points apiece. Diamond Judkins had 1 point.
“I definitely think the ball movement was there tonight,” Williams said. “I think they were not only able to ditch inside to McKinley or Madison Cole, but they were also able to kick it back out once the defense collapsed, so I think they did a really good job of executing that.”
As for Midway, head coach Allen McLamb didn’t sugarcoat his disappointment with his team’s performance.
“This is the worst game we’ve played all year, by far,” McLamb said. “Looked like we haven’t played all year. Don’t know where nobody was, nobody stepped up to fix anything. Nobody was ready to shoot. If we come out like that (Tuesday night at Clinton), we’re going to lose another conference game. I know we lost (at East Duplin) Friday night, but I thought we came out with a lot of energy and ready to play, and we had none tonight.”
Sophomore point guard Kris McKoy was the lone standout for the Raiders, racking up a game-high 14 points. Caitlyn Holland and Jenna Pope added 4 points apiece, Rylie Williams had 3 points, Makenzi Hudson had 2 points and Alyssa Hargrove had 1 point.
South got off to a strong start by jumping out to an 11-5 lead in the opening quarter, but Midway was able to get back into the game in the second with its pressure defense, eventually tying the game at 16-16. The Trojans ended the half with momentum; however, as Blackmon made a layup off a nice assist from McDonald as the buzzer sounded to give them an 18-16 lead at the break.
South carried that momentum into the third quarter with an 8-1 run to start the period and outscored Midway 17-4 in the quarter to take a commanding 35-20 lead into the final eight minutes.
While it still wasn’t quite the complete performance Williams has been searching for — South shot just 7-of-22 (31.8 percent) from the free throw line and still had some stretches with too many turnovers — the Trojans are getting closer to putting everything together.
Next up for South’s girls (4-8) is a trip to Corinth Holders (6-7) on Wednesday, where the Trojans will try to get revenge after losing to the Pirates 42-33 at home. Meanwhile, Midway (10-3) had a short turnaround before facing Clinton (8-4) on Tuesday. The Raiders will return to action Thursday at Hobbton (0-7).
Searching for consistency
South’s boys started off the game about as hot as any team can, jumping out to a 23-4 lead at the end of the opening quarter after knocking down five 3-pointers, an old-fashioned 3-point play and a fast break dunk. Seven different Trojans scored in the opening quarter, and it looked like the game was over before it even got started.
But the rest of the game was a struggle for South, as Midway outscored them in the second (9-6), third (4-2) and fourth (27-22) quarters and cut the game to single digits in the final moments.
“We played like we wanted to be out here in the first quarter, and then we just played with no purpose the rest of the way,” said South boys coach Brody Massengill. “We’ve got to get better. I thought that Midway played hard. I haven’t seen them play a lot, but I thought they played hard and did some good things tonight. But once again, when we’re a little more talented than the team we play, we don’t put four quarters together. It’s just frustrating.”
Conversely, Midway boys coach Aaron Lane wasn’t happy with the way his team started, but couldn’t have been prouder of the way they fought back.
“I’m really encouraged by our effort tonight during the second, third and fourth quarter,” Lane said. “We played a lot better basketball than I expected out of us the whole year. You don’t want to get ahead of yourself and say we’re starting to figure it out. But you hope at some point that this might be the turning point. I’m very encouraged. I don’t like losing and trying to make losing a good thing. The guys are encouraged and aren’t down in the dumps tonight.”
South played its entire lineup in the victory and 11 of 12 players ended up scoring. Senior shooting guard Thomas Dees and junior backup point guard Dylan Bates had 9 points apiece to pace the Trojans. Colby Norris added 7 points. Jeremiah McLean and Cole Winborne chipped in 5 points apiece. Austin Denning and Jonathan Watts each had 4 points. C.J. Ray and D.J. Carter each had 3 points. Sam Webster and Chase Carroll each had 2 points.
“It wasn’t all bad,” Massengill said. “A lot of guys got some playing time that hadn’t been playing. I thought we got to rest a few guys that were banged up a little bit. It’s a long week, so everybody needs some rest.”
Midway was led by senior guard Cameron Barefoot, who scored a game-high 12 points. Jaden Covington added 8 points, and Tyler Godwin and Thornton Baggett chipped in 7 points apiece for the Raiders. Jamar Autry had 6 points. Luke Strickland and Lane Baggett each had 2 points.
It’s a step in the right direction for Midway (4-8). The Raiders have already made some impressive strides in Lane’s first year as head coach. After turning around to play Clinton on Tuesday, they’ll hope to carry that momentum into Thursday’s game at Hobbton (0-9).
“What we’ve done recently, we started this about two games ago, is just talk about quarters specifically,” Lane said. “Four quarters a game, so our first goal every night is to win the first quarter. We didn’t win the first quarter tonight, so we just say, ‘We didn’t get it done,’ and move on. Let’s win the second quarter... We’re narrowing their minds down to not so much the big picture, but we’re taking small bites at it. And that’s starting to play in the overall picture, because tonight they came into halftime and said, ‘We won that quarter.’”
Massengill, on the other hand, hopes his team can rediscover the consistency they had early on. The Trojans (12-2) have a chance to get back at it Wednesday when they head to Corinth Holders (1-12).
“I told these guys that they’ve got to learn to play when there’s not a ‘Rah-Rah’ going on,” Massengill said. “Sometimes it’s difficult to play in an atmosphere like they played in (Friday) night (against Clayton), and then come in the gym and it’s quiet. But, I told them in the locker room too, if we’re playing for all these people sitting in here, then we need to re-center why we’re out here... We’ve got to make sure we’re playing for each other.”