Garner Cleveland: Sports

One-two punch lifts West Johnston girls by Garner

Garner's Mary Ayodele (42) puts the ball back up as West Johnston's Katlelyn McLamb (35) tries to block her shot attempt.
Garner's Mary Ayodele (42) puts the ball back up as West Johnston's Katlelyn McLamb (35) tries to block her shot attempt.

In a Greater Neuse River 4A Conference girls basketball game between Garner and West Johnston Tuesday night, the Trojans’ Khayani Chandler and the Wildcats’ Jarmeia Holder’s impressive performances canceled each other out.

However, Holder had a little more help from her teammates as the Wildcats evened their conference record at 1-1 with a 62-46 road victory.

Holder led all scorers with 29 points, but it was Tanay Smith and her 14 points that helped to bolster the West Johnston offense.

Chandler ended her night with 27 points, but was the only Trojan that reached double digits on a night when Garner just couldn’t keep up with the Wildcats.

“That’s the hardest we’ve played,” West Johnston coach Bill Pepicello said. “They gave it everything they had and if we would just play that way the rest of the season, with that intensity, whether we win or lose, it wouldn’t matter.”

What worked: Getting to the line. A more dynamic and patient offense allowed West Johnston to find paths to the goal and all of those trips inside the paint led to trips to the foul line, 36 to be exact.

The Wildcats made 26 of their charity shots to gain a 19-point advantage in that category over Garner as the Trojans managed just 10 trips to the foul line, connecting on seven chances.

What didn’t work: Garner’s work rate. It seemed as though the Wildcats were a step ahead of their conference foes for much of the night be it to loose balls, rebounds or out in transition.

“I think we came out flat,” Garner coach Hardwick Mays said. “We got out-hustled, out-rebounded and were three steps behind them. They really were prepared for us and our girls never got anything rolling.”

Unsung hero: Olivia Harris made the most of her time on the court. The Garner forward came off the bench and in limited minutes posted six points (second most on the team) and three offensive rebounds.

Turning point: Holding a slim three-point lead early in the second quarter after Garner’s Chandler made one of her two three-pointers on the night, the Wildcats closed out the first half in style: a 14-4 run. West Johnston hit six of seven foul shots in that stretch while the Trojans had a difficult time getting clean looks against the Wildcats’ half court defense.

“It was fun to watch,” said Pepicello. “They didn’t get down on themselves and they did the things we wanted them to do.”

Going forward: For Garner, it is of prime importance to find a reliable second scorer to compliment Chandler in order to compete in the conference.

“I just don’t have another scorer right now,” said Mays. “Everybody knows (Chandler) is my scorer so if they can take her out, they won’t have to worry about the others.”