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A 11-2 run to end the third quarter enabled the North Johnston varsity girls basketball team to pull away to a 53-37 2-A Eastern Plains Conference victory at Beddingfield on Wednesday night.
Both teams were bidding for their first conference win and the Lady Panthers emerged 1-1 in the league and 11-3 overall. Beddingfield dipped to 0-2 and 2-12, respectively.
The Lady Bruins, trailing 26-21 at halftime, closed the deficit to 28-27 to start the second half behind 6-foot-2 junior Makayla Everette.
But the Lady Panthers answered with a free throw from junior Mackenzie Gibson and a putback from sophomore Amani Hines. Beddingfield trailed only 33-31 when North Johnston responded with 11 of the next 13 points to lead 44-33 after three quarters.
The Lady Panthers began the spree with a 3-pointer from sophomore Arial Pearce and senior point guard Jordyn Scott followed with a three-point play. A pair of free throws from Pearce and Scott’s 3-pointer completed the run.
Beddingfield netted the first field goal of the fourth quarter but drew no closer than 44-35 although the Lady Panthers did not score the first three minutes of the quarter.
North Johnston, with rotation and short passes, effectively played “keep away” the rest of the game.
“As long as the big girl (Everette) stayed inside, we were going to pass it around,” explained North Johnston head coach Jay Poole. “If she came out, we were going to look for the backdoor.”
The Lady Panthers capitalized on a couple.
Pearce and Scott each tossed in 17 ipoints for the Lady Panthers, while Hines netted 10.
“I was very proud of the effort,” Poole said.
Poole indicated his team’s 11 wins might be considered surprising, but reasoned: “Different people are stepping up to give us scoring. The girls work really hard, listen very well and try to execute the game plan to the best of their ability.”
Pearce was a factor with her game-long willingness to drive the basketball from one end of the court to the other.
“I do that all the time,” noted Pearce, who committed to play softball at UNCW as an eighth-grader. “I have pretty good foot speed and I’m faster than most players. I’m pretty good at driving to the basket.
“I can shoot the 3. If (the defender) is two arm-lengths away from me, I’ll shoot it. It just depends on how many are in front of me. But I have more confidence driving. I just drive, drive, drive — that’s how I get all my points.”
Beddingfield head coach Debra Pegram credited Poole, commenting: “They are very deliberate, run their sets and are very disciplined.”
North Johnston’s approach centered around stopping Everette, who wound up with 18 points and nine rebounds.
“Our defense was really on,” Pearce contended. “We tripled on the big girl, and that worked pretty well.”
Added Poole: “Everette is so good, so tough to defend. She is not only tall but skilled. She’s also more nimble on her feet than people give her credit.
“We tried to get her away from the basket and take advantage of our speed. That helped our press offense. Sometimes, they got the ball in to her and, sometimes, they didn’t. We tried to limit that the second half.”
Behind Pearce, Hines and Scott, North Johnston posted its 26-19 halftime lead. Everette and junior Trinity Anderson kept the Lady Bruins close with 17 of the team’s 19 points. Junior Aa’Niyah Sherrod claimed a game-high 11 rebounds.
The Lady Panthers also limited their turnovers to 12, while Beddingfield had 19.
Pegram cited the absence of junior defensive specialist Shamya Best and foul trouble encountered by sophomore Ihjanae Cooper, also a quick defender. She hailed sophomore Brittany Dudley’s defensive play.
“We kind of missed that,” Pegram said of the defensive quickness of Best and Cooper. “It’s the little things that keep getting us. We’ll try again Tuesday night (at home against Nash Central).”
NORTH JOHNSTON (53)
Blue, Pearce 17, Massey 2, Scott 17, Barnes, Massengill 6, Gibson 1, Hines 10, Gachus, Narron, Jones.
Anderson 7, Fuller, Dudley 2, Cooper 4, Pope 2, Sherrod 2, Farmer, Thomas 2, Huggins, Everette 18, Shade.
Score by quarters:
North Johnston 13 13 18 9 — 53
Beddingfield 12 9 12 4 — 37