FOUR OAKS — South Johnston reigned 3-pointers down on Senior Night, upsetting rival Cleveland 60-55 in both teams’ regular-season finale.
The Trojans (10-13, 3-7) buried a dozen 3-pointers on the Rams, who dipped to 13-10 overall and 7-3 in conference play.
“I hope this win gives us a better place in the conference,” said an elated Trojans coach David Dewey. “And maybe sneak in with a wild card in the state tournament. If we can win a couple of games in the conference tournament, maybe our chances of that will be better.”
Cleveland coach John Jacobs said the loss did not hurt the Rams, as far as falling out of second place, but it did create other concerns.
“It doesn’t effect us at all,” Jacobs said. “We had second place already sewn up.
“But I told the guys they have to learn to play in a great environment like this: to be excited and play with a little bit of an edge. They didn’t live up to the challenge.”
But South did, never letting fast, early starts by the Rams faze them.
In the opening moments, it appeared as if the Rams were going to ride their 3-point shooting, hitting their first two long-range 3s and building an 11-3 cushion three minutes into the game.
South fought back with consecutive 3s by Blake Tart, Alan Johnson and Tate again to complete an 11-1 run to end the quarter with a 16-15 lead.
The Trojans buried four 3-pointers in the period, with Will Holmes giving South Johnston its first points on a long-range missile.
“You have to give the Trojans credit. They hit a lot of good shots,” Jacobs said. “We kind of panicked at the end of the game. We couldn’t make shots and they made shots.”
South continued to hit 3s, banging in three more in the second period in building a 29-24 lead, but Cleveland used a penetrating attack and balanced scoring to take a 30-29 halftime lead.
The teams traded baskets until South carved out a 46-41 lead behind a jumper by Johnson in the lane. Wayne Hatfield then put the Rams on his back with three consecutive baskets, giving Cleveland its final lead, 47-46 with 6:13 to play.
At that point, South began controlling both ends of the floor, with 3s from Tart and Johnson on offense, while wiping the glass clean on the defensive end.
“I changed up defenses and ran about everything I could run,” Jacobs said. “They continued to make big shots. They took advantage of every opportunity they had to get the lead, and we would take bad shots.”
And no one to help with the rebounding, Cleveland seemed to settle into all or nothing possessions.
“We hardly ever get any offensive rebounds, “ Jacobs said, “because we are not a good offensive rebounding team. That’s understandable. I don’t have as big of a problem with that as the defensive rebounds we didn’t get. We gave them too many second-chance shots. I don’t like that as much.”
Dewey beamed over the work on the glass by his squad: “The kids played hard; they always play hard. I think they did a really good job on boxing out, and the 3-ball really helped us out. Two of our juniors (Tart, 18 points and Johnson, 22 points) scored 40 of our 60 points tonight.”
Holmes added 10 for the Trojans, while Chase Jackson paced Cleveland with 19, while Hatfield added 12 and Holmes 10.
“It was a great Senior Night.” Dewey said.