SMITHFIELD — Apparently, this year’s edition of Smithfield-Selma girls basketball does not know the word “quit” means. The Spartans’ resilience was front and center in their come-from-behind 53-51 win over Greater Neuse River 4A Conference opponent Knightdale Tuesday night.
Down by as many as 11 points in the first half, the scrappy Spartans chipped away at the deficit to gradually overcome and then hold off the Knights to improve to 8-1 on the season with a 2-0 mark in conference.
“I told them to never quit,” Smithfield-Selma coach William Sanders said of the advice he gave to his team after falling behind early. “When you’re down you fight back and get it little by little; you can’t get it all at one time.”
The Spartans ended the first half on a 13-4 tear to close to within 27-25 at halftime.
Smithfield-Selma took its first lead in two-and-a-half quarters on a Diamond Blackston jumper with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Sabrina Shepherd hit a huge 3-pointer with 2:01 left to put the Spartans up 52-48. Breanna Chappell iced the game in the final seconds with a key steal, a key rebound and a free throw that prevented the Knights from getting a potential game-winning or game-tying shot off before the buzzer.
Early on, the Knights were able to get anything and everything they wanted to relying on their inside-outside approach to move their lead to double digits.
Persia Brown led Knightdale with 16 points inside the paint and her presence inside led to open looks on the perimeter and her teammates were able to knock down their shots early.
Lovely Locklear and Rakayla Persons each nailed a pair of three-pointers to extend the lead.
“We were trying to go to the post and it worked in the beginning,” Knightdale coach Anthony Byrd said. “But in the second half, I think our team relaxed and weren’t doing the things we were doing at the beginning and that changed the whole complex of the game.”
Behind balanced scoring that saw four Spartans hit double digits, SSS was able to keep the Knights off balance.
Blackston led the Spartans with 17 points. Chappell pitched in with 13 points of her own while Shepherd (11 points) and Niasha Theet (10) presented Smithfield-Selma with even more offensive options.
“We try to move the ball at practice and get everybody involved,” Sanders pointed out. “Tonight it paid off.”
For Knightdale, it was a different facet of the game that prevented them from coming out with the victory.
Twenty-eight turnovers derailed what was an otherwise efficient offense that provided the Knights with a 23-12 lead midway through the second quarter.
“Some of the balls we should have caught, we didn’t catch on the inside,” Byrd said, referring to several failed entry passes to the post. “We never got back in that flow.
“We turned the ball over too much and it really killed us.”
To compliment Brown, Persons came off the bench to score 11 points for the Knights (2-6, 0-2).