High School Sports

Improving South Johnston boys hold off West Johnston down the stretch

South Johnston’s Javonte Smith (23) gets a shot off but West Johnston’s Wade Eatmon (20) is able to get a hand on the ball.
South Johnston’s Javonte Smith (23) gets a shot off but West Johnston’s Wade Eatmon (20) is able to get a hand on the ball. newsobserver.com

The South Johnston boys basketball team is showing signs of progress in the early stages of its season and the Trojans continued to demonstrate improvement Wednesday night when they played host to West Johnston.

South Johnston showed composure playing with the lead in the final minutes while converting from the free throw line to hold off the Wildcats for a 61-47 victory.

Having surrendered a double-digit lead it earned by scoring the first 12 points of the game, the Trojans (4-3) retook the lead late in the third quarter before they started to run the clock on offense and get rewarded with trips to the free throw line.

South Johnston made good on 13 of 18 foul shots in the fourth quarter alone after shooting just 30 percent from the stripe in its most game, an overtime loss to Pikeville C.B. Aycock.

“We made incremental gains,” South Johnston coach David Dewey said. “We did a whole lot better at running clock and not trying to score when we had the lead. That whole fourth quarter was an exercise in not trying to score but run the clock because the clock was the enemy, not the scoreboard.”

West Johnston (0-6) relied on dribble penetration to get back in the game after the slow start put them in a hole.

Wade Eatmon was the beneficiary as Eatmon led the Wildcats with 16 points, many coming from drives-and-dishes by West Johnston guards, including Ryan Holmes who also finished with 10 points.

“One of our biggest improvements from early in the season is shot selection,” West Johnston coach Scotty Williams said. “They’re doing a much better job attacking, getting their eyes up and getting their eyes on the rim.

“I’m proud of how they played; that’s West Johnston basketball.”

Turning point

Sauyer Roberts connected on three consecutive three-pointers to help South Johnston retake the lead for good early in the third quarter. The Trojans had made just one basket in the previous quarter, which allowed the Wildcats to erase a 12-point deficit to take the halftime lead.

Three who mattered

Javonte Smith, South Johnston: The Wildcats had no answer for the tenacious and high-flying Smith, who finished his night with 16 points and 10 rebounds. “He’s an incredible type of player,” Dewey said of Smith. “He does things that you need: rebounds and loose balls, he gets them.”

Wade Eatmon, West Johnston: Eatmon became a reliable source of offense for West Johnston especially in the second quarter during which he scored seven of his 16 points. He also added six rebounds.

Sauyer Roberts, South Johnston: The perimeter shooter was key in grabbing back the momentum for the Trojans and went for 15 points.

They said it

“It a credit to Coach Dewey how well South Johnston always runs offense,” said Williams. “The running joke is that they can make a 10-point lead feel like a 40-point lead.”

By the Numbers

5: Offensive rebounds for Javonte Smith.

0: Number of made three-pointers for the Wildcats.

13: Converted South Johnston free throws in the fourth quarter.

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer