A full moon hung in the sky over Smithfield Thursday night, so maybe it isn’t surprising that some strange things went on during South Johnston’s visit to Smithfield-Selma High for a Two Rivers 3A doubleheader.
The girls’ game featured an assistant coach serving as a head coach, and the nightcap included a pair of technical fouls and a five-minute delay for an injured fan.
A night of oddities favored South Johnston, which won the girls’ game 43-37 before completing the sweep in the boys’ game with a 59-54 victory.
Amanda Smith, head coach for the Trojan girls, sat on the bench during the game, but left the standing and shouting to her assistant, Latissa Hampton.
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Her instructions worked, as South Johnston (2-20, 2-8) used six 3-pointers and a bit of defensive intensity to trip up the Spartans (3-20, 2-8).
“Less turnovers is what we said we needed to win tonight, and we didn’t do it,” Smithfield-Selma coach Stacy Holland said of her team’s offensive miscues. “It’s tough to go out like that, but we just had too many turnovers. … We came out, and had a little fire, then we’d go back down. We just didn’t give it enough.”
Kelly Dorman had 13 for South Johnston while Carmen Keene added nine. Logan Lee led all scorers with 20 for the Spartans.
In the boys’ game, Smithfield-Selma (10-14, 4-6) used a 17-2 run between the second and third quarters to build a double-digit lead. Frustrations were running high for South Johnston (14-8, 5-5), as DeParis Patterson and coach Brody Massengill picked up technical fouls in the third period.
The Spartans led by 13, 41-28, with 2:59 left in the quarter, but the Trojans started using a full-court press and it created enough turnovers to let the visitors back in the game.
“It was ourselves,” Smithfield-Selma coach Matt Cuddington said of his team’s issues handling the press. “We know what to do, we just didn’t do it. We played too passive against it, we made lazy passes and that’s what happens.”
Smithfield-Selma’s Josh Raiford fouled out with 3:24 left, and that left plenty of room for Javonte Smith to go to work inside. Smith scored on a pair of offensive put backs in the closing minutes, including the eventual game-winner with 44 seconds left in regulation.
Rashad Potts got to the foul line for the Spartans on the ensuing possession, but missed his first free throw. He made the second, but not before a delay of nearly five minutes after a woman fell in the stands.
After a pair of free throws from Patterson, TJ Altman had a look at a three-pointer that would have tied the score in the closing seconds, but it didn’t fall.
South Johnston grabbed the rebound, then threw the ball down court to Smith for a dunk to close out the scoring.
Javonte Smith tallied 20 and JaQuan Smith chipped in 12 for the Trojans, while Anthony Council had 20, TJ Altman scored 14 and Potts added 10 for the Spartans.
When a team only has one win, the word perseverance comes up quite a bit.
On Thursday, South Johnston showed it on the court and on the sidelines with Hampton standing in for the head coach.
“We team-coach,” she said of her relationship with Smith. “We team-coach in practice. We team-coach wherever we are. So it wasn’t different for the girls.”
The Trojans lost to Smithfield-Selma on their home floor, 44-30, just 20 days ago. On Thursday, they were able to grab a lead with a 9-2 spurt in the second quarter and they wouldn’t trail again.
“Sometimes, we’ve let some of the mistakes we’ve made and some of the bad calls that have gone against us take us out of the game mentally,” Hampton said. “Tonight, we stayed in the game mentally and physically.”
A 64-50 loss to Smithfield-Selma on Jan. 20 dropped South Johnston to 1-5 in Two Rivers 3A play. But the second pass through the league went far better for Brody Massengill’s squad.
“These kids are resilient,” he said. “After starting 1-4 in the conference, to come back and win four out of five shows you what kind of kids we’ve got. They don’t quit and they fight hard.”
It took a furious second-half rally for the Trojans to level their conference record — one sparked by a full-court press.
“When we picked up that press, and we threw a couple of different ones at them, it kind of caught them off balance a little,” Massengill said. “(Smithfield-Selma) doesn’t really have a deep bench, and those kids had to play a lot of minutes.”
Javonte Smith fouled out late in a narrow loss to Triton last week, and was saddled with three first-half fouls on Thursday. He didn’t pick up another one the rest of the way, drawing praise from his coach.
“I though Javonte played about the smartest half of basketball he’s played at South Johnston,” Massengill said. “He didn’t pick up another foul. And it wasn’t like he wasn’t playing defense. He just picked his battles.”