Triton boys, girls sweep Two Rivers 3A titles

cbest@newsobserver.comFebruary 22, 2014 

Triton’s D'Angelo Harris puts up a shot over Smithhfield-Selma High's Tito Campbell.

DEAN STRICKLAND, OD — DEAN STRICKLAND, OD

— Triton swept the Two Rivers 3A Conference basketball tournament titles Friday night, setting up a convenient home and home scenario for their boys and girls teams when the playoffs start Monday night.

Triton’s boys survived a valiant upset effort by Smithfield-Selma, 69-68 in double-overtime. The Hawks, who won the regular-season title as well, carry a 18-5 mark into the state playoffs.

The Hawks’ win in the girls tournament final – a 54-49 decision over regular-season league champion South Johnston – earned the No. 2 seeding from the conference for playoff purposes, bumping Cleveland down to the No. 3 seed.

Triton’s boys trailed by 11 with 1:12 to play in the third quarter after a stellar scoring run by the Spartans (10-16). But a switch to a trapping, three-quarter-court press sparked the Hawks’ offense. A 3-pointer by senior captain Nick Parker actually put Triton up 57-55 with 3:36 to play in regulation, but SSS was able to answer, tying the score on two Raequan Smith free throws with 2:30 to play. Neither team could score through the rest of regulation play.

“We were lucky,” said Triton coach T.J. Morrison. “We’d like to be able to press more like that but we’re just not equipped to do it. We just had to find some kind of spark and that was it. SSS is a well-coached and talented squad.”

Neither team held more than a two point lead in the first overtime, which ended tied at 65 when the Hawks missed two free throws with 8.5 seconds to play, then SSS missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Triton (19-5) pushed ahead 69-65 with 2:36 to play in the second overtime on a steal and driving layup by D’Angelo Harris with 2:36 to play. Smith hit a 3-ball for SSS to get within 69-68 with 1:25 to play but the Spartans, who are headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2005, couldn’t score again.

Parker led the Hawks with 24 points. Smith led the Spartans with 23, while Quantez Leach had 18.

Triton’s girls continued to benefit from the promotion of sophomores Tarica Worney and Je’nae Harvey in the win over South. Worney gave the Hawks another solid inside presence with 6-foot-3 Brittany Smith and Jamecia McNair, while Harvey has helped share the load at point guard.

Triton took advantage of the 3-point shooting of junior guard Kadizah Gaulden (21 points, including five 3-pointers) in the girls game. And the Hawks also played stellar defense in the second half, holding South Johnston without a field goal for an eight-minute, 24-second stretch from late in the third quarter until just 11 seconds remained in the game.

“We’ve had a problem closing out games, especially early in the season,” said Triton coach Keith Howard. “But we’ve gotten better at finishing games, especially on the defensive end. We found something that worked and stayed with it and it helped us a lot.”

South Johnston (20-5) saw its 19-game winning streak end and struggled at the free throw line, hitting just 11 of 23 at the line a night after hitting 86 percent of its free tosses.

Senior standout Alexis Massengill fouled out early in the fourth quarter, creating matchup issues for the Trojans.

Anna Webster had 19 in the loss for South Johnston.

Best: 919-524-8895; Twitter: @dclaybest

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