Sophomore guard Kavon Ward sank a pair of 3-pointers in the final 22 seconds, including the game-winner with three seconds remaining, to lift Smithfield-Selma’s boys basketball team to a 66-65 victory over rival South Johnston on Wednesday night.
After Ward’s first 3 cut the South Johnston lead to 64-63, the Trojans were on the free throw line with 11 seconds left. Sauyer Roberts ‘ first free throw made it 65-63 and South Johnston called a timeout.
Smithfield-Selma coach Matt Cuddington didn’t hesitate when it came to his strategy.
“I told them, ‘Look, make or miss, we need to grab the rebound, push it up the floor and run the same play we did before (on Ward’s first 3),’” Cuddington said. “When it went in, all I could think was, “Oh my God.’ ”
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A desperation heave from South Johnston missed, setting off a wild celebration on the court by Smithfield-Selma students and players.
In the girls game, Anna Webster’s sizzling shooting carried South Johnston to a 64-46 victory in the first game of a Two Rivers 3A Conference doubleheader.
Webster made all eight of her shots in the first period – two of them 3-pointers – and scored 21 points in the period as the Trojans opened a 23-12 lead and never looked back.
Smithfield-Selma’s boys fought an uphill battle for most of the game against South Johnson, which led 15-5 after the first period and 29-22 at halftime.
Smithfield-Selma picked up its defensive pressure and began to whittle into the Trojans’ lead, finally taking its first lead at 48-47 with 5:36 left in the fourth period.
“These guys have tremendous heart,” Cuddington said. “They never give up. I told them to just believe in themselves.”
Defense was a key, Cuddington said.
“We ride or die with our defense,” Cuddington said. “Our defense leads to our offense. That is the style we like to play. Sometimes it gets us in trouble when we don’t get steals. But when we get turnovers and get into the transition game we can be dangerous.
“In the first half we were generating turnovers, but we just couldn’t convert.”
Smithfield-Selma (12-8, 4-3) trailed by 62-56 with 1:47 but went on a 10-3 run to end the game and give itself a share of a three-way tie for second place in the Two Rivers 3A standings.
Raequan Smith led the Spartans with 16 points and Ward had 15. Josh Raiford added 13.
Ward said he had never hit a game-winner in high school, but he had some confidence after making the first one.
“Coach drew up a play for me,” Ward said. “I didn’t have any choice but to hit it. I wasn’t sure when it left my hand but it went in.”
Javonte Smith scored a game-high 28 points to lead South Johnston (7-10, 2-4).
South Johnston’s girls, coming off a tough four-point loss to Cleveland on Tuesday, got an instant shot of adrenalin from Webster.
The senior guard made her first jump shot, then was fouled on consecutive shots and converted the old-fashioned 3-point play before swishing a 3-pointer from the wing to give South Johnston and 11-0 lead. By the end of the quarter, she had poured in 21 points on 8-for-8 shooting and the Trojans were up 23-12.
“I was kind of off in warm-ups, so I was kind of surprised that I hit my first shot,” Webster said.
But, she said, once they started falling she just kept shooting. The result was a quarter unlike any other she had ever had in her career.
“That was great,” said Webster, who finished with 35 points.
South Johnston coach Ronda Johnson said that Webster’s offense was crucial on a night when the Trojans were a “little sluggish.”
“All those points she got tonight was what kept the lead,” Johnson said. “We didn’t break this game open until the fourth quarter when I think that (Smithfield-Selma) got tired.”
Sometimes, Johnson said, the Trojans coaches have to push Webster to be more offensive-minded.
“We were trying to tell her that she just needed to go for it and not be so unselfish,” Johnson said. “They girls look to her to score. It’s OK to take the ball to the basket instead of looking for someone else to throw it to.
“She took it to the basket tonight.”
South Johnston’s girls improved to 11-6 and 4-2, good for third place in the Two Rivers Conference.
Carson Denning complemented Webster’s big night with 12 points and six rebounds.
Smithfield-Selma (2-16, 1-4) pulled within nine points on numerous occasions but could never get any closer.
The Spartans were led by Logan Lee with 26 points.