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KENLY — With the weight of an eight-game losing streak holding it down, the North Johnston High varsity boys basketball team loaded up Justin Vann and asked him to carry them past 2-A Eastern Plains Conference foe Beddingfield High Friday night at home. Vann delivered with 24 points and seven assists and the Panthers escaped 73-72 for their first win in conference play and 2019.
With the Panthers down 53-51 with 20 seconds left in the third quarter, Vann stole a pass and laid it up to even up the score at 53 heading into the final period. The junior guard would score or assist on the next 13 points for North Johnston.
“We’ve known from the time Justin was a freshman coming in that he had the ability to do a lot of things,” Panthers head coach Chris Batten said. “Every year he has progressed understanding things and continues to get better and better. “
The Bruins, who led 37-31 at half, went cold in the fourth quarter as they couldn’t make a 3-pointer to combat the Panthers’ inside scoring approach. But the Bruins did get a big lift from 5-foot-10, 230-pound sophomore Raekwon Batts, who finished with 19 points, including seven in the fourth quarter.
“Raekwon played like a grown man down there,” Bruins head coach Joseph Dvozenja said. “He was a monster down low for us. He played excellent for us. He’s the ultimate team player and hopefully he’s the glue to get us to where we want to go.”
The Panthers (6-12, 1-5 EPC) also had Savon Foye and Luke York finish in double digits with 15 points and 10 points, respectively. Foye also pulled down 14 rebounds.
The Bruins (7-11, 3-3 EPC) had four other players score in double figures. Beddingfield got a nice boost from Lamont Speight who put in 11 points for the game and six in the fourth quarter before fouling out. Andrew Gattis knocked in three 3-pointers for 11 points. Mike Best and Trevon Brantley both dropped in 10 points.
For the Bruins, it was a setback in the conference, but one that could be afforded as the two teams tied with them, Nash Central and Southwest Edgecombe, also lost Friday night. This first win for the Panthers keeps them alive in the hunt for one of the coveted four spots to keep a team alive in the playoff hunt.
Beddingfield will host North Pitt (7-13, 2-4 EPC) on Tuesday at 8 p.m. North Johnston will host Farmville Central, the top-ranked 2-A team by Maxpreps.com, on Tueday at 7:30 p.m.
Brantley 10, M. Best 10, Roesch 4, Speight 11, J. Best 7, Gattis 11, Batts 19.
NORTH JOHNSTON (73)
Vann 24, Hinnant 9, Tinsley 8, York 10, Foye 15, Lucas 5, Rodrigues 2.
Score by quarters:
Beddingfield 19 18 16 19 — 72
North Johnston 10 21 22 20 — 73