They went about it in different ways but, in the end, the Harnett Central boys and girls basketball teams each came away with what they wanted: a Greater Neuse River Conference road win.
Maliah Banks poured in 25 points to lead the Harnett Central girls basketball team past West Johnston 65-37 to help move the Trojans to .500 in the Greater Neuse River Conference.
The boys’ team had to work a little harder but also posted a lopsided victory when all was said and down in taking down West Johnston 63-34 to post its first GNRC win of the season.
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Maliah Banks is not a selfish basketball player, but Harnett Central girls basketball coach Chelsey Cabe has supported the idea of her point guard having the ball in her hands as much as humanly possible.
Banks’ performance in the Trojans’ lopsided win at West Johnston Thursday night is a prime example of why more is sometimes, well, more.
Banks went 10-of-12 from the field to lead Harnett Central (8-5, 2-2 GNRC) while also stealing the ball six times and dishing out five assists.
“I’ve actually had to tell her to shoot and be more selfish because she likes to drive and dish off,” Cabe said. “We need her to score too. Last year, Maliah started becoming a good player and now she is really filling that role of becoming a great player.”
The Trojans built a 17-5 lead after the first quarter and stretched the advantage to 27 points by halftime with Lyndsey Brewer, Kayln Brown, Michaela Cabe and Lekendra Carroll taking full advantage of the trips down the court when Banks was her usual unselfish self.
It was the Trojans’ defense, however, that stood out even more and something coach Cabe points to as being crucial to future success in conference play as Harnett Central came up with 17 steals on the night.
“We’ve got to continue to work on defense,” said coach Cabe. “When we play good defense and have intensity defensively, our offense comes along with it.”
West Johnston’s Nadia Blevins hit 4-of-9 from behind the three-point line, including her final three attempts, to pace the Wildcats (3-7, 0-4) with 18 points. Meghan Bennett added seven points while Mikayla Brown and Jada Delaine both finished with five points apiece.
The Harnett Central boys basketball team attacks opponents in waves, often subbing five at a time, and against West Johnston, every little ripple counted as 10 different players scored.
West Johnston scored the game’s first six points but the Trojans (7-6, 1-3) began to attack the glass and received a much-needed boost from its second five to grab control of what was a close game through much of the opening half of play.
“I really think that our second group came in there and gave us a lift at the very end of the first quarter and beginning of the second quarter,” Harnett Central coach Will Gage said. “There was a five-minute span there where they played really hard.”
Mason Adams, Cory McLean, Montrey McAllister, Drew Milton and Kaizer Ray did their part in dominating the boards and clamping down on defense to slow down what was a quick start for West Johnston (2-8, 0-4) and help the Trojans finish the half on a 30-14 run.
The pivotal opening four minutes of the second half saw the Wildcats’ deficit grow as West Johnston couldn’t hit its shots while Harnett Central went on a quick 11-0 run to put the game out of reach.
“I’m actually happy that I feel like we’re at a point now where we can discuss hitting shots and not hitting shots,” West Johnston coach Scotty Williams said. “Last year, it was, ‘Well, let’s not dribble it off our feet,’ and now we’ve taken a step forward when it can be a discussion about hitting shots or not.”
Jalin Graham and Erron Davis did a bulk of the scoring for the Wildcats, scoring 11 and 10 points, respectively, but no other West Johnston player had more than five.
For Harnett Central, senior guard Ian Jones was in fine form going for 16 points. Jay Stewart pitched in with 11 points while Ray came off the bench to supply the Trojans with seven points and five rebounds.
“That’s not the kind of start you want as I thought we flat on both ends but we picked it up,” said Gage. “I think one of the big keys is that we got contributions from a lot of people.”