It was a stretch of three minutes in the third quarter of South Johnston’s basketball game against Corinth Holders that Trojans’ boys basketball coach David Dewey later referred to as being the “most important part of the season.”
After the Pirates strung together 11 straight points to claim the lead late in the third quarter, South Johnston composed itself and responded strongly in gutting out an important 51-42 win Tuesday night at home.
Alan Johnson scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and the Trojans clamped down defensively to help South Johnston leap Corinth Holders in the Two Rivers 3A Conference standings into a tie with Erwin Triton in second place.
“That was the most important part of the season for us right there and we handled it,” Dewey said. “We’ve been a little inconsistent with pressure and I think that was a very pressure-filled situation and they handled it and they came through on the other side.”
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A floater in the lane from Johnson with 5:23 remaining in the third period gave the Trojans a 33-23 lead. The Pirates then reeled off 11 straight points with 6-foot-8 Kalen Cooper doing much of the damage.
Cooper scored eight points in the pivotal stretch including a couple offensive put backs to give Corinth Holders (5-15, 3-4) its first lead since the middle stages of the first quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, however, Cooper was fouled hard across the face after hauling in another offensive rebound and a resulting bloody nose would sideline him the rest of the game.
“We were a bloody nose away from keeping momentum,” Corinth Holders coach Chris Davis said. “He stepped up and said, ‘I’m going to be the man I can be tonight,’ and we need that from him and he needs that from himself. It was good to see him do that…I hated to see his night get cut short.”
Unable to feed the ball inside to Cooper, the Pirates began to struggle offensively down the stretch as a tough 2-3 Trojan zone forced Corinth Holders to attack the middle of the zone or settle for outside jumpers.
Khalil Bryant would make the only field goal of the final quarter for the Pirates with his late three-pointer aided only by five more points earned at the charity stripe.
“We made some changes defensively from what they did to us last time and I think that worked really well,” said Dewey. “That helped us in what we were trying to do which was basically to keep them from going behind us and force them to the middle of the zone instead of the baseline.”
With Johnson running the point, the Trojans (14-6, 4-3) proceeded to go on a 10-0 run to take complete control of the game.
South Johnston built a seven-point lead midway through the second quarter thanks to the hot shooting of senior Joshua Bethune. Bethune’s ability to find open spots behind the three-point line combined with his accurate and quick release led to 12 first half points on four three-pointers.
“We really lost the game in the first half,” Davis said. “We lost (Bethune) in transition and let him get off and hit four three’s in transition. That put us in position where we were playing from behind.”
Bethune finished with 13 while Brett Clifton contributed with nine points.
Cooper led all Pirates with 10 points and eight rebounds while Bryant added nine points.