Corinth Holders made some history in girls’ basketball on Friday night.
For the first time in the five academic years since the Johnston County schools opened simultaneously, the Pirates finally beat Cleveland.
Tajah Clark led the way with 21 points as the Pirates took a 46-36 victory in Two Rivers 3A Conference action.
The win — the Pirates’ first in 10 tries against Cleveland— gave Corinth Holders (11-4, 3-0 Two Rivers) sole possession of first place in the conference. Cleveland fell to 15-4 and 2-1.
“This is a big win,” said Pirate coach Brandy Smith, who has coached the program from its outset and has yet to have a team finish over .500. “We want to come out on top of the conference. This is a statement, but it was important for us to get first place in the conference.
“In the past they had athletes we didn’t have and we were inexperienced. But it’s been a matter of hard work over the summers and building the program.”
Holly Price added 11 points and Khadijah Neal 10 for Corinth Holders.
Miranda Hinton and Amber Scott led Cleveland with nine points each.
“We just didn’t play very well,” Cleveland coach Chris Danehower said. “We had too many turnovers and weren’t getting the ball reversed against the zone.
“We were getting some shots, but we just weren’t finishing. We had several opportunities in the fourth quarter to score and we just didn’t put the ball in the basket. We just have to take this as a lesson to be ready to play every night.”
There were six ties but only three lead changes in the contest.
Cleveland led 9-7 at the end of one period following a Courtney McGregor 3-pointer. But the Pirates went on a 13-5 second-quarter run including six points by Clark to take a six-point halftime lead.
“This is the best win we’ve had since I’ve been at Corinth,” said the senior Clark, who missed all but the first three games of last season with an ACL injury. “We talked on ‘D’ and worked together well as a team. That is the best we’ve worked against a good team like that.
“I don’t even know how to express how motivated I was to come back this season. I’m just happy to be back on the court.”
The Rams put together a big rally in the third, finishing the stanza with a 31-26 lead after Scott scored all of her nine points in the stanza.
“We played like we practiced,” Scott said. “We did a lot of joking around in our last practice. They have their best team that I’ve seen. (Clark) is a really good guard, and she sets up a lot of things for them.
“What we should take from this is that we have to play better defense every night.”
But Price scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter to put Corinth Holders ahead for good. The Pirates’ biggest lead was the final score.
“We’ve been waiting to beat them for a long time,” Price said. “Coach just told us to do what we needed to do to get a win. It’s big for us to be in first place. She told me at halftime to get focused and knock down shots and I was able to hit them.”
The rematch is Feb. 6 in Wendell.
Corinth Holders hosts Smithfield-Selma on Friday, while Cleveland travels to South Johnston the same night.