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Panthers defend turf in tourney sweep

Boys, girls teams claim Johnstonian News Holiday Invitational titles

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KENLY — Behind 20 points from senior Savon Foye and 15 from junior Justin Vann, the North Johnston boys basketball team ruled the Johnstonian News Holiday Invitational with a 70-63 victory over Falls Lake Academy on Friday night.

The host 2-A Eastern Plains Conference Panthers, now 5-3 after winning five of their last six, scored 70 points a night after a season-high 83 in an 83-29 against Neuse Charter in Thursday’s semifinals. North Johnston head coach Chris Batten said he was happy with the ball movement for the second straight game.

Foye was named tournament MVP for averaging 16.5 points per game while Vann also made the all-tournament team as well while averaging 14 points per game. Colson Teal of Falls Lake Academy (7-7), who averaged 18.5 points, also was named all-tourney along with Rosewood’s Roderick Benjamin and Neuse Charter’s Jamir Ledbetter.

North Johnston took control of the first game of the Johnstonian News Holiday Invitational in the second quarter against Neuse Charter on Thursday night to advance to the championship game on Friday with an 85-29 victory.

The Panthers (4-3) held the Cougars (2-6) to three points in the second quarter and pushed their lead to 44-18 by halftime. Batten said Neuse Charter of the 1-A Carolina Conference was getting skip passes against its defense and that led to a few buckets, but said his team took advantage of those passes in the second quarter to get out in transition and score easy baskets.

It was a season high in points for a North Johnston squad that has struggled to score at times.

“We sent them home with a game on film and we asked them to see how many times we reversed it, and hopefully that paid off,” Batten said.

The Panthers got an offensive outpouring as 12 of their 13 players got into the box score. Senior Daylan Hinnant paced the scoring with 15 points. Juniors Dylan Pitts and Justin Vann both scored 13 points, while junior Rakaun Rodrigues added 12 points. Carsse Lucas, a junior, also netted eight points.

Falls Lake reached the championship game with a 65-53 win over Rosewood.

In their last six games, the Panthers have held teams to an average of 40.7 points per game and are 5-1 in that stretch. North Johnston’s strong defense will be put to the test on Wednesday as the Panthers visit Louisburg and its high-scoring sophomore guard Elijah Jamison.

Lady Panthers dominate Rosewood in title tilt

KENLY —Another strong defensive effort by North Johnston steered it to a win over Rosewood, 57-46, in the Johnstonian News Holiday Invitational girls basketball championship game Friday.

In improving to 6-3, the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference Lady Panthers (6-2) got revenge for a two-point loss at Rosewood on Dec. 4. North Johnston head coach Jay Poole said that unlike the last game, the Lady Panthers’ shots were falling Friday.

Senior Jordyn Scott was in rhythm as she secured MVP of the tournament with 23 points, eight steals and four assists. Scott averaged 19 points per game and 8.5 steals per game during the two-day dribblefest.

North Johnston held Rosewood’s top scorer, Braylee Butts, to 18 points in the game. Butts came into the game averaging 24 points per game and had 41 points in the Lady Golden Eagles’ (4-4) win over Falls Lake Academy on Thursday.

“Butts is a great player, she took a lot of our attention,” Poole said. “But defense and steals and forcing turnovers were the keys to the game.“

Butts was named to the all-tourney team along with Scott, Falls Lake’s Carmen Moore, Neuse Charter’s Kayla Ham and North Johnston’s Ariel Pearce — who had 11 points, five rebounds and three steals in Friday’s contest.

North Johnston advanced to the championship game of the Johnstonian News Holiday Invitational by holding off county foe Neuse Charter School, 33-30, on Thursday evening.

North Johnston’s defense has been pesky this season, but during its current five-game win streak, the Lady Panthers are allowing just 30 points a game.

But despite the tough defense, the 1-A Carolina Conference Lady Cougars (5-2) came back from a 23-12 halftime deficit.

On the final play, Neuse Charter standout Ham’s 3-pointer was blocked by Pearce. Poole said he was happy to hold Ham to 14 points — eight below her season average.

North Johnston’s Scott scored seven of the team’s 10 second-half points, and had a game-high 15 for the game to go with her nine steals. Senior Lindsey Massengill added six points.

North Johnston will next be in action Wednesday at Louisburg.