High School Sports

Dominant half gives West Johnston girls a win over Smithfield-Selma

West Johnston’s Kira Byrd (11) and Smithfield-Selma’s Jada Billups (33) battle each other for a rebound under the basket.
West Johnston’s Kira Byrd (11) and Smithfield-Selma’s Jada Billups (33) battle each other for a rebound under the basket. newsobserver.com

In each team’s opening game of the season, the Smithfield-Selma and West Johnston girls basketball teams struggled early offensively.

The Wildcats, however, came up with a solution to finally get their offense in gear and pulled away for a 49-29 victory Tuesday night thanks to a concentrated effort on hitting the glass that created more shots which eventually began to fall.

Alexus Stancil began to dominate close to the basket with 10 points but, even more importantly, nine rebounds and Christian Sanders made those extra possessions count as she led all scorers with 18 points.

“We were getting one shot on offense and that was it,” West Johnston coach Laura Jefferson said. “In the second half, Alexus came out and was jumping around and moving her feet up the floor. Once Alexus was doing that and was seeing that it was making a huge difference, it really changed the tempo of the game.”

The Wildcats outscored the Spartans 33-16 in the final 16 minutes of the game after holding a slim three-point margin at halftime.

Turning point

After both teams struggled finding their offense in the first half, West Johnston went on a 9-1 run to start the third quarter powered by six points from Stancil and a three from Nadia Blevins.

Three who mattered

Christian Sanders, West Johnston: The senior guard who the Wildcats will look to lead the way this season led all players in scoring and came up with six steals to help West Johnston pull away in the second half.

Alexus Stancil, West Johnston: Stancil came up big in the second half for the Wildcats in providing a much-needed presence in the lane.

Jada Phillips, Smithfield-Selma: Although quiet in the first half, Phillips accounted for over half of the Spartans’ offense by the time the game was over thanks to her teammates getting her the ball in the fourth quarter. Twelve of her 15 points came in the final eight minutes of the matchup.

“She’s going to be huge,” Smithfield-Selma coach Stacy Holland said about Phillips. “She’s learning how to post up. As soon as we can learn to get her the ball, and she learns a couple post moves, she’s going to be big.”

They said it

“Christian is always going to be our go-to girl,” Jefferson said. “I’ve told her that if she ever gets injured or in foul trouble, then we’re in trouble.”

Unsung Hero

Courtney Creese, West Johnston: Creese did a little bit of everything for her team Tuesday night: she scored four points, pulled down six rebounds, grabbed three steals and assisted Stancil on a pair of baskets on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter to help the Wildcats take control of the game.

By the Numbers

3: Number of three-pointers West Johnston’s Nadia Blevins connected on for the game as the junior guard finished with 15 points.

4: Points Smithfield-Selma scored in the pivotal third quarter.

14: Offensive rebounds collected by the Wildcats.

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