South Johnston’s varsity boys basketball teams saw a different type of pressure Wednesday night against county rival Clayton than they had in Tuesday’s opening night contests with C.B. Aycock.
The Trojans, of the Two Rivers 3A Conference who benefitted from their speed against Aycock’s boys to post a 52-40 win in their lid-lifter, found themselves a step slow against the Comets of the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference, dropping an 85-65 verdict.
The South girls, who endured at physical contest in a 60-45 loss to the Golden Falcons which included 30 points from Myleah Jones, looked like they were about to receive more of the same from the Comets’ Taisha Murphy, before an injury sidelined the Clayton standout.
But with Murphy out of the game, South Johnston took advantage in rallying to a 49-48 victory.
Murphy injury dooms Comets
Clayton looked like a juggernaut against the Trojans in the opening four minutes, rolling to a 16-5 lead behind Murphy, who collected three steals and forced to other Trojan turnovers, and scoring 13 of the Comets points.
However, on a layup after a steal, Murphy hurt her right knee. Whether she came down wrong on the knee, or twisted it during the approach to the basket was not immediately clear, nor the extent of the injury.
What became vivdly clear — for the next 6 1/2 minutes — was that the Comets missed their leader, and the Trojnas took advantage, surging to their first lead of the night, 20-18 with 5:10 left in the half.
“We still don’t know what’s wrong,” said Comet coach Marlon Lee of Taisha’s condition. “They may have ruled out an ACL, and things like that. But by the end of the game, she still really couldn’t put any pressure on it. That’s the breaks of the game.”
Lee noted in the short time Murphy was on the floor, she controlled the flow on both sides of the ball, but said it took a while for the Comets to come to grips with what had transpired.
“It took a whole lot out of the team,” Lee said, “And I told the girls, ‘Hey, you have to keep on fighting.’”
While the Comets were adjusting to the loss of Murphy, the Trojans, who had struggled getting the ball up the floor and when they did, experienced trouble getting shots off, changed the complexion of the game.
Outside and interior shots opened up, with Anna Webster taking advantage with 17 points, while Carson Denning and Caroline Dorman added nine each.
Webster and Denning accounted for 10 first-quarter points in pulling the Trojans within 18-13.
Webster canned six additional second-quarter points, while McKinley Johnson added five as the Trojans stayed within striking distance, 31-27 at the half.
Clayton, once it overcame its initial shock at the loss of Murphy, used five points from Alexis Teel, and eight from Maya Williams to hold its advantage.
The lead see-sawed throughout the second half, with six ties and three lead changes.
South took the lead for good on consecutive baskets by Denning, who took assists from Johnson and Webster as the Trojans claimed leads of 47-45 and 49-47.
The Comets had a chance to take the lead with 18 seconds left, but a 3-point attempt bounced on the rim twice and fell off.
After the Trojans missed on the front end of a one-and-one, Clayton had a chance to tie with 10 seconds left on two free throws, but both missed the mark.
Clayton grabbed the rebound, but missed two shots that would have won the game. South’s Dorman grabbed the rebound to seal the outcome.
Comets pressure too much for Trojans
South Johnston Coach Dewey expressed his disbelief in several website and prognostications that have the Comets finishing fourth in the GNRC after witnessing them first hand.
“That’s bull,” Dewey said of that ranking after the Comets’ win.
Clayton used speed and balanced scoring and defense in rolling to a 22-9 first quarter lead.
Leading 9-6 with just under four minutes to play in the opening quarter, the Comets unleashed Darius steven (six points) and Kenny Williams (five) to open up the bulge, then kept the pressure up throughout the rest of the night, opening their season on a positive note.
The Trojans made several runs at the Comets, and despite 17 points from Brett Clifton and 15 from Alan Johnson, could not come closer than 11 points the remainder of the night.
The Trojans also got 12 points from Blake Tart, who canned four 3-pointers in the contest.
South Johnston managed to drain ten treys, but even that was not enough to halt the speedy comets, who responded with seven 3-pointers.
“They are very athletic,” Dewey said. “They shoot the ball well, they have great defense and they share the ball — a very unselfish team.”
Ten players scored for the Comets, led by Austin Byrd’s 18 points, 13 from Kevin Jones and 12 from Tre Armstead.
“We enjoy playing Clayton,” Dewey said, “They put so much pressure on us and force us into running our offense and getting fairly decent shots..
“That was constant the entire game, there was no let-up. they have 15 guys. And they send them at you in five-man waves and there was no difference between those waves in their offensive or defensive tenacity.”