Northwood’s pressing defense and athleticism was just too much for South Johnston in Saturday’s first round of the state girls’ 3A basketball tournament.
The Trojans’ highlight of the day was junior guard Anna Webster’s 1,000th career point late in the fourth quarter, but the Chargers were already rolling to a 69-42 victory.
Northwood (21-4), seeded No. 9 in the East, will play again in the second round on Monday at Union Pines. South, seeded No. 24, finished 14-10.
Kristian Eanes led Northwood with 14 points, followed by senior Shontai Totten with 13 and Jazmine Atkins with 10.
“We wanted to show the press and see how South Johnston handled that,” said Northwood coach Cameron Vernon, whose team like the Trojans had not played in two weeks because of all the winter precipitation. “I thought we did a good job. They made their first pass and got across half court, but what we like to do is intercept the second pass.
“We had had one practice in two weeks, and that’s the best we’ve played all year in terms of intensity and effort. And South Johnston is a very classy team.”
Webster led all scorers with 20 points and added nine rebounds, while classmate and backcourt running mate McKinley Johnson added 11 points.
“We had a little bit of video on them, and we knew they would be athletic and fast,” South coach Ronda Langdon Johnson said. “Anna plays with a couple of their players, so we knew a little bit more.
“Everybody we know is bigger than us and faster than us and jumps higher. Northwood was great defensively, and in the first half we just lost our composure and fell all to pieces. ... I was happy with our season, and it was a blessing to get Anna her 1,000th point. They were very classy to tell everybody on the mike.”
The Chargers, running a zone press into the backcourt in the early going, were in control throughout. Northwood scored the first six points and was up 22-5 after the first quarter.
“We’ve been really, really excited about playing in the state tournament,” Eanes said about the dominant performance. “We’ve all been texting each other about it even though we couldn’t practice.
“Everything just clicked today, and what better time for that to happen than in the playoffs?”
Northwood led 44-15 at halftime.
“That’s the best we’ve followed Coach’s directions all year,” Totten added. “And we’re usually better when we follow what he says. All of us love basketball and we haven’t played in a while, and we’re chasing a ring.”
With the press called off and the home team substituting liberally, the Trojans outscored Northwood 27-25 after the break.
“Anna and I have been playing together since we were in fifth grade, so it’s been good to be by her side the whole time,” McKinley Johnson said. “This was a tough game, but we’ve got a close team. Today just shows us how much harder we need to work for next year.”
Webster got her 1,000th point on a jumper with 1:14 left that cut the margin to 69-40. Coach Johnson called time out and the public-address announcer told the crowd of the visiting star’s milestone.
“I’ve been really honored to have so many great coaches and friends on my teams,” Webster said of the milestone. “Today, we just couldn’t break Northwood’s press.”