Markayle McClain’s driving basket with 20 seconds remaining lifted South Johnston boys basketball team to a 51-49 victory over Cleveland in a hard-fought Two Rivers 3A Conference game Friday night.
The victory earned a split of the varsity games. In the earlier girls game, host Cleveland rolled to a 57-39 victory.
McClain, a sophomore guard, drove the lane and split a pair of Cleveland defenders for his deciding basket. The Trojans hung on for the victory as Cleveland missed a 3-point attempt in the final seconds.
“We hung tough,” South Johnston assistant coach Brody Massengill said. “It wasn’t always pretty but we stressed this week playing hard and playing tough and the guys responded.”
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The Cleveland girls improved to 2-0 in the conference and 14-2 overall with a dominant performance.
“That was the most complete game we have played all year,” Rams coach Chris Danehower said. “I think from the top to the bottom of the lineup they all went in and made really good contributions.”
The boys game was close from beginning to end.
South Johnston led 18-15 at the end of the first quarter and the score was tied 26-26 at halftime. South Johnston (6-7, 1-1 Two Rivers 3A) was up 37-35 at the end of the third quarter.
It came down to the final minute with the score knotted at 49 before McClain provided the big basket.
“He’s been working hard for us,” Massengill said of the sophomore. “We needed it and he got it done.”
After the game, South Johnston head coach David Dewey said that he would prefer that Massengill discuss the game because his assistant coach had worked so hard in practice with the Trojans. The message in practice was about finishing games, and that is what South did on Friday night.
“Our last three or four games we didn’t finish games and we didn’t sometimes play hard,” Massengill said. “But we did both of those tonight. Cleveland is a good team, we just pulled it out.
“Defensively, we just put pressure on them when we needed. We got stops when we needed to, we rebounded when we need to.”
Senior guard Kolby Wood and junior forward Javonte Smith had 11 points each to lead South Johnston.
Cleveland (5-11, 0-2) was led by junior Ishmail Edwards with a game-high 14 points.
“(South Johnston) did a good job of keeping the game close,” Cleveland coach John Jacobs said. “We just couldn’t get any shots to fall and they did a good job of rebounding and not turning the ball over.
“We played hard and had our chances. Both teams went back and forth with each other. They just made the last shot and we didn’t.”
The Cleveland girls took an early lead in the conference race in a battle of teams that had both won their league openers.
“I told them before this game that it was a critical, critical game,” Danehower said. “I really gave an impassioned speech that we needed to come out and play hard and right off the bat we did.”
The Rams opened up a 7-0 lead and led 17-9 at the end of the first period. Cleveland upped the advantage to 30-17 at halftime with a 10-2 run to end the second quarter.
South Johnston (8-5, 1-1) never got closer than 10 points in the second half.
Cleveland had a balanced offense that meshed strong inside play and good performances from its backcourt.
Senior guard Myrayna Watkins led the Rams with 19 points, junior power forward Tehya Lee had 15 and senior guard Miranda Hinton added 12.
“They all worked together and were very patient against (South Johnston’s) zone and we got the looks we wanted,” Danehower said. “We knocked down some shots. We are tough to match up with when we are doing all those things.”
South Johnston was led by senior guard Anna Webster with a game-high 21 points.