The most uttered words in Pittsboro on Friday night may have been “Get a stop!”
In the last Big Eight Conference game before the winter break, Cardinal Gibbons’ and Northwood’s boys and girls basketball coaches pleaded with their teams to string together good, consecutive defensive possessions so they could go into the holidays on a winning note.
The Northwood girls won 65-54 while the Gibbons boys won the nightcap 54-42.
Chargers get important win against Gibbons
Northwood sophomore Kristian Eanes and Gibbons junior Olivia Smith had already gone through the handshake lines and gotten the postgame locker room talks when they crossed paths again in a hallway to the rear of the gym.
They exchanged another “good game” and pat on the back, a show of respect after one-on-one matchups pitted the two against each other.
Eanes hounded Smith, while Smith focused on slowing Northwood senior Shontai Totten.
In the end, both defenders did their jobs – Smith and Totten each scored 17 points with 10 rebounds but neither had it easy – and Eanes’ game-high 21 points and nine rebounds tipped the scales in the Chargers’ favor.
“I took my defensive assignment more seriously than I’ve ever taken a defensive assignment,” Eanes said. “My goal was to keep (Smith) to 15. She had 17, but I think I did well by getting close to that.”
Northwood (6-2, 1-1) couldn’t get out in transition the way it normally does thanks to Smith’s defense on Totten – who just topped 1,000 points in her career and is the area’s leader in assists this season. Instead, the Chargers found holes in the Cardinal Gibbons (6-3, 1-1) defense and hit enough 3-pointers to never lose their lead.
“We know how good Gibbons is. We know if we want to get to where we want to be, we have to beat the Gibbons, the Southern Durhams and the Chapel Hills,” seventh-year coach Cameron Vernon said. “It was sloppy at times. We got some garbage points. When you work hard, luck seems to go your way, and I thought we worked really hard tonight.”
Northwood’s Bryn Aydt had 14 points and Jazanae Billings added nine. Gibbons’ Ashley Clark had 11, Erica Skowron added 11 points and nine rebounds while Madison Bonello came off the bench with 12 points and eight rebounds.
Gibbons’ defense locks down Northwood boys
Cardinal Gibbons (5-4, 2-0) was holding a 29-23 halftime lead against Northwood (2-5, 0-2) when first-year Crusaders coach James Ryan decided to switch it up.
“We wanted to see how they did against a zone,” Ryan said.
The answer is what he hoped it would be. The Chargers – who only had five players score and two in double figures – couldn’t knock down shots from outside as the Crusaders pulled away. And whenever Northwood got close, a Gibbons player would cut backdoor for an easy layup.
“They’re a very athletic team so they were always in the passing lane so the ball fake and backdoor was open for us tonight,” Reid said.
Reid had 20 points and 13 rebounds. Ryan said he was relying heavily on seniors Reid and Logan Bugg (18 points) this season.
“We’re playing a lot more loose, which makes us more confident, which helps us a lot. I think our record reflects that too,” Reid said. “With our group of seniors we’re hoping to bring home the Big Eight this year.”
Northwood’s Ti Pinnix had 19 points while Jared Worley added 13. The Chargers’ Alex Hart is their fourth coach in as many seasons. Smith is a 2008 graduate of the school and son of former coach Jim Hart.
“I think the kids learning four different things over the course of four years is hard. They haven’t had the opportunity to benefit from continuity,” Hart said. “What I like about them is the way they’ve grown up. The kids know each other like the back of their hands because they’ve played with each other since rec ball, played together in middle school – in some cases against each other.”
“The thing I’ve appreciated the most out of them is it hasn’t been an easy situation for them, it hasn’t been an easy four years for them, but from Day One they’ve done all we’ve asked them to do.”