North Johnston girls basketball coach Jay Poole was hopeful that with North Pitt being a bit shorthanded, perhaps his team might be able to pull off the upset Friday night.
Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way, as North Pitt led wire-to-wire en route to a 72-48 victory in the Eastern Plains 2A Conference championship at Farmville High School.
Nyjanique Langley scored 33 points and Ta’Shada Joseph added 21 points for North Pitt (24-1), which was without leading scorer and rebounder Dorian Sharp as well as guard Quadramec Moore. The pair were serving the second game of a four-game suspension for their roles in an in-game altercation that occurred Saturday against Farmville Central.
“All the credit to them,” said Poole, whose team lost to North Pitt for the third time in as many games this season. “Even without the two players they’re missing, they’re still very good. They’ve really run roughshod through our conference this year, they are very tough to play.”
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Even so, North Johnston managed to hang around, drawing within 39-28 when Tayona Jones scored on a layup in transition with 5 minutes, 34 seconds remaining in the third quarter to cap a 7-0 run.
North Pitt, however, answered right back with a run of its own that effectively sealed North Johnston’s fate.
Joseph got the run started with an 18-footer from the right side, and Langley followed with back-to-back layups, the first via a coast-to-coast drive through traffic, the second coming on a fast break.
Several minutes later, TyQushia Gainer’s basket off a North Johnston turnover would finish a 19-3 surge that put North Pitt ahead 58-31 with just over a minute to go in the third quarter.
“The no. 1 thing that hurt us was team speed, North Pitt is extremely fast,” Poole said. “Their penetration was so good and when we did help, they kicked it out to a shooter and would knock down a three.
“We tried several defenses, but the difference was they could beat us off the dribble.”
North Pitt, a state 2A semifinalist last season, made five three-pointers, including two each from Langley and Joseph.
In the early going, despite missing a number of makeable shots inside, North Johnston stayed within striking distance.
Freshman forward Levossie Taylor, who led North Johnston with 12 points, scored on a nice drive to close the first quarter as North Pitt led only 12-7.
A 13-3 run by North Pitt in the second quarter, with Langley scoring six of the 13, put North Pitt up 28-13 with 3:57 to go, but North Johnston found its footing the rest of the frame, drawing within 34-22 by halftime as Taylor scored five points in the quarter.
“She’s fearless,” Poole said of Taylor. “She is a freshman, she’s only 14 years old, but she’ll go to the basket against anybody. … She has a lot of potential, I look forward to watching her develop over the next few years.”
North Pitt would take control in the second half, but North Johnston senior guard Olivia Narron took solace in her team’s title-game appearance, which locked up an automatic berth into the state 2A playoffs.
“I’m proud of us for just making it this far, nobody expected us to get to the title game,” Narron said. “I think it was just an off night for us and it really hit us in the second half.
“We’ll put this game behind us and look forward to the (state) playoffs.”
Eastern Plains 2A Girls
First Round: Washington def. Beddingfield
Semifinals: North Pitt 47, Washington 45; North Johnston 43, Southwest Edgecombe 37
Championship: North Pitt 72, North Johnston 48
Eastern Plains 2A Boys
First Round: North Pitt 66, North Johnston 53; Washington 66, Southwest Edgecombe 51
Semifinals: Farmville Central 88, Washington 65; North Pitt 85, Wilson Beddingfield 76
Championship: Farmville Central 82, North Pitt 79