The South Johnston Trojans and Triton Hawks battled for 44 minutes in front of a near-capacity crowd on Friday in the Two Rivers 3A Conference boys basketball tournament final before South came way with a 62-57 overtime win to claim the title.
In the opening game of the doubleheader, Cleveland took down Triton, 64-49, to claim the girls’ tournament title and — since the teams tied in the regular season — the league’s top overall playoff seed.
In the early game, Cleveland (16-10) took a 31-29 lead into the locker room, but quickly took command after intermission.
All eight of the Rams’ field goals in the third quarter came from within four feet of the basket, and that ability to pound the ball inside while the Hawks (15-11) started misfiring from the perimeter proved to be the difference.
“Right at the beginning of the second half, we got it inside to Tehya (Lee)” Cleveland coach Chris Danehower said. “And she got like three or four baskets and that got us rolling. … They just got it together at the right time. When we get it going like that, hopefully we’re going to be a tough out in the playoffs.”
Lee paced the Rams with 17 points, while Kayljn Williamson (14), Shaniya Taylor (14) and Liyah Moore (11) also hit double figures.
Anna Tyndall also finished with 17 for Triton, and Kathryn Elliott chipped in 10.
“There are six possible trophies we could have won this year,” Triton coach Keith Howard said, while holding the regular season championship trophy. “We came out with two first places and a third place in one of the tournaments.
“I’m proud of these young ladies. We fought hard, but the big girls kind of wore us out a little bit. We didn’t play our best defense, but I told them to walk out of here with their heads up. … It’s just one game.”
Two weeks ago, Triton escaped South Johnston with a 56-54 win, and Friday’s affair was just as competitive.
Triton (16-10) held a slim 39-35 lead after three quarters and built a 49-41 edge with less than four minutes to go in regulation.
That’s when South Johnston (17-8) went to work.
Two baskets from Javonte Smith and a layup from Poppy Reddick sparked an 8-0 burst that tied the game at 49 with 47 seconds left.
Shiquan Cox put the Hawks back in front with a basket in the paint, only to see the Trojans tie the score on a pair of free throws — after a foul against Triton a rebound attempt — from Smith.
Neither team could produce any points in the final few seconds, and the game went to overtime tied at 51.
JaQuain Smith opened the extra session with an old-fashioned three-point play for South Johnston and Landon Lockemy added one of his own shortly thereafter help the Trojans grab the lead.
Still, Triton had the ball down three in the closing seconds, but Javonte Smith swiped the inbounds pass and threw down a dunk to slam the door.
“I thought that our kids when they were down in the fourth quarter were so resilient,” South Johnston coach Brody Massengill said. “Javonte, obviously, is our steady. We never really got put in a situation tonight when Javonte had to come off the court due to foul trouble. That’s No. 1 for us. … We’ve been battle tested a lot all year long, and I’ll take my guys any night. I like our guys. They know our system, they’re going to play hard and they won’t give up.”
Javonte Smith had 21 points for South Johnston, while JaQuain Smith and Reddick added 12 and 9 points, respectively.
Cox paced all scorers with 23 and Chrishaun Henry chipped in 14 for the Hawks, who suffered their first loss against a league opponent this season.
“Tough game, hard fought game, good atmosphere,” Triton coach T.J. Morrison said. “Congratulations to those guys. They played hard and defended well. We should have never let it get to overtime. You’ve got to make free throws, you’ve got to make plays. You’ve got to make sure you don’t turn the ball over.”