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South searching for consistency in 2021-22

By DONNELL COLEY
Sports editor
Posted 11/22/21

The South Johnston boys basketball team is looking to expand on a .500 record last year, while the girls hope to build on its three-win season.

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South searching for consistency in 2021-22

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FOUR OAKS — The South Johnston boys basketball team came away with a .500 record following the shortened schedule last season.

Trojans coach Brody Massengill loses the top three scorers from that group, including 6-foot-5 forward Jeremiah McLean — who led the team in points, rebounds and blocks.

“We were young last year and we’re coming back young again, but with experience,” Massengill said following the team’s final preseason scrimmage last week.

“Even though last year wasn’t a full season, it was still good for the kids to play ... they learned a lot.”

Sharpshooter Ricardo Perez is among four returning seniors, and is expected to be a top scoring threat. Perez shares the backcourt with fellow upperclassman Jaydn McNeill, who played only three games before being hospitalized due to a rare inflammatory disease caused by COVID-19.

McNeill’s return gives Massengill an invaluable commodity in prep hoops: speed.

“Like I told the boys in practice the other day, ‘When you got a horse, you can’t keep him in the stable for so long,’” Massengill said of the three-sport athlete who is still looking to get into basketball shape after leading the Trojans football team in receiving this fall.

“He’s had no setbacks and he looks good right now.”

With McNeill assuming most of the ball-handling duties, the Trojans hope to be an up-tempo offense that looks for easy scoring chances. Massengill anticipates junior wing Chase Norris to help Perez shoulder the scoring load on most nights.

Meanwhile, another football standout — Lucas Layman — hopes to contribute on the boards by using his high motor. And fellow junior Nick Jackson is expected to contribute as a guard off the bench after making strides during the offseason.

The Trojans took part in over a dozen games this summer and competed in four scrimmages. Massengill says the busy schedule helped his youthful bunch, who is still looking for an identity as the season begins this week.

“One thing we’re still gonna try and pride ourselves on is defense. We have to be good there or we’re not gonna be successful,” he said.

“Once we become consistent in what we do, and figure out some of the things we’re good at, I think we’re gonna be fine.”

South is set to pick up its regular-season slate following the Thanksgiving break, hosting Cleveland on Tuesday, Nov. 30.

Lady Trojans looking to build on last season

Despite losing key starters to graduation, Whitney Williams brings back most of the South Johnston girls basketball squad that snapped a winless conference skid from the previous season.

Leading scorer Janay McDonald helped the Lady Trojans to a three-win mark in the former Greater Neuse River Conference.

Hoping to carry some of the scoring load left behind by McDonald is returning starter Kennedy Byrd, who is a proven outside threat and tough competitor on defense.

The team’s only senior this year, Byrd is tasked with leading an inexperienced group with four freshmen. Of the newcomers, combo guard Lannah Price is expected to provide quality minutes alongside Byrd in the backcourt.

In the post, junior forward and reigning All-Record Volleyball Player of the Year, Jordyn Brown looks to provide length and athleticism. Brown will be joined by fellow junior Dianna Boykin, who hopes to provide the strength that helped her set a school record in the discus throw this past spring during track and field season.

And Caroline Tucker is another junior returner that should provide depth at the wing with her ability to hit open shots.

Following a handful of non-league matchups with local teams, the Lady Trojans try to forge a path in the newly formed Quad County 3A Conference, starting with a road game at Fike on Dec. 11.

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