For the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs, the top three teams from each conference get automatic bids. Entering the final week of the regular season, both the Corinth Holders and South Johnston girls teams and the Pirates boys team are in the mix for one of those berths from the Two Rivers 3A Conference.
In the boys’ matchup, Corinth Holders was in complete control from the onset and cruised to a 76-46 victory. That win, paired with a Smithfield-Selma win over Triton, left all three teams tied for first place in the league with one game to go in the regular season.
The Pirates travel to Cleveland with a chance to win part of the regular season title on Thursday night.
In a battle of teams tied for third place, the South Johnston girls team shook off a second half run from the Pirates to take the 65-51 win and sole possession of third place
Anna Webster’s double-double of 29 points and 12 rebounds helped move the Trojans to 12-8 on the season but, more importantly, 5-4 in the Two Rivers and a full game ahead of Corinth Holders.
A South Johnston win on senior night against Smithfield-Selma would secure that spot entering the conference tournament.
Pirates ‘turnaround’ still in effect
At the midway point of the conference season, the Corinth Holders boys team stood at 2-3 and coach Chris Davis knew he needed a new approach to turn things around.
With a renewed emphasis on intensity and effort, the Pirates (14-8, 6-3) have now reeled off four consecutive league wins after the 30-point thumping of the Trojans Tuesday night.
“The last four, five games, we’ve changed our focus,” said Davis. “I told them we’re going to judge how we play by based on effort, we’re not going to look into anything else. They bought into the idea that we’re going to judge on effort and since then, good things have happened.
“They’re all trying to fight to stay on the court by giving that effort and it’s paying off. The intensity level and staying in the moment has really been a huge turnaround the last four, five games.”
Good things happened early and often for Corinth Holders as Brian Frazier exploded for 13 points in the opening quarter to give the hosts the 19-8 lead after eight minutes.
Frazier led all scorers with 20 points but it was the Pirates’ depth and contributions from everyone up and down the bench that keyed the blowout.
In all, 11 Pirates scored on the night. Khalil Bryant stepped off the bench to provide 12 points while Steven Adams and Johnavan Neal both added eight.
“We had a couple of upsets so we came back to practice, we played harder and we picked up the intensity,” Frazier said when asked about the turnaround. “Everybody’s coming together and accepting the minutes and I think we’re playing well.”
DeParis Patterson led the Trojans (7-13, 2-7) with 12 points, Javonte Smith had 11 and Elijah Hill added 10 points off the bench.
Trojans trying to make it automatic
Veteran South Johnston Ronda Johnson coach didn’t like the idea of relying on an at-large bid to get into the NCHSAA 3A playoffs. After the Trojans’ crucial 65-51 win over Corinth Holders Tuesday night, South Johnston took a little more control over its destiny as the Trojans moved a game ahead of the Pirates for sole possession of third place having now swept them this season.
“Tonight was huge for both teams because they wanted that place as much as we did because it means so much,” Johnson said. “Tonight was for third place, which is a state playoff spot.”
The Trojans got off to a quick start thanks to Anna Webster’s nine points in the first quarter, which staked the visitors to a 15-9 advantage. South Johnston stretched its lead out all the way to 24 points thanks to a 28-8 run.
Corinth Holders (10-12, 4-5) would not go away without a fight however, as their backcourt of Maddy Gladwell and Shaniya Taylor keyed the Pirates on an 18-3 run which brought them to within nine points near the end of the third quarter.
During one stretch in that period, Gladwell drained three consecutive shots from three-point land and Taylor contributed 10 points to give the Pirates the momentum
Webster and company calmed things down, however, by moving the ball, working the clock and getting to the foul line.
Webster was 10-of-11 from the charity stripe on the night.
“Coach told us to hold the ball and take time off the clock and I think it definitely worked as far as holding the ball and keeping them from scoring,” said Webster. “It was definitely a big win. I think we fought through that one very well.”
Emma Blackman dominated close to the basket for the Trojans as the senior totaled six points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots. Kelly Dorman hit two key three-pointers early on for South Johnston and finished with 10 points for the game. McKinley Johnson and Carson Denning each added nine points.
Taylor ended with 23 points to lead the Pirates and Gladwell had an impressive performance in her last home game of her high school career, tallying 15 points, nine rebounds and six assists.