BENSON West Johnston has had a short girls’ basketball team for years.
But instead of dwelling on what it doesn’t have to work with, coach Bill Pepicello’s team is going with what it does have: quickness.
And quickness made a lot of difference as the Wildcats led wire to wire in a 57-39 win over visiting South Johnston Monday night.
West (1-1) got 19 points from senior Jarmeia Holder and 18 from sophomore Christian Sanders.
“I thought we’d be a little bit quicker than (South),” Bill Pepicello said. “I thought we needed to run, run, run and tire them out in the fourth period a little bit.
“We’re improving, and we’re making better decisions. This group wants to run and that’s what we’re going to do. We’ve got five guards out there almost all the time.”
A young South Johnston team – the 0-3 Trojans start three sophomores – got a balanced effort, including a 10-point, 13-rebound effort from sophomore post Emma Blackmon, 10 points from senior Krista Collins and 14 rebounds and six points from senior Alexis Massengill.
“We’ve been more efficient on offense,” South coach Ronda Langdon said. “We scored 54 points against C.B. Aycock the other night, and we had 35 points at half. We didn’t have 35 points in a lot of our games last year.
“But our defense just has to be more effective when we’re in a ‘man.’ We’re not helping enough, and it’s something we’re going to have to work on. We’ve just got to get some help from the younger girls inside. Alexis gets a lot of her rebounds from being feisty. She’ll get a black eye or a broken nose to get the ball. We’re playing hard, but on defense, we’re not playing smart.”
West led 3-0 and 5-2, but the margin mostly stayed in single digits until a 17-6 run in the fourth quarter.
“I think we’re looking pretty good,” Holder said. “Better than last year. We talked a lot on defense, and we moved the ball a lot on offense.”
West led 30-21 at halftime behind 10 points from Sanders.
“I’m confident about this season,” Sanders said. “I feel like we’re a lot better mentally and physically as a team. If we’re fast and talk on defense and get after it like we did tonight, we’re going to be a strong team this year.”
Blackmon had eight first-half points, seven in the first quarter.
“I thought we improved from out last two games,” Blackmon said. “We’re better shooters than we were last year. I think West came out a little more athletic than we expected.
“I think we’ve got good players, but we just have to get into the flow and get on the same page.”
West’s Avvette Smith left the floor with a leg injury in the second quarter and did not return. Pepicello said she would have an MRI on Tuesday.
The rematch is Dec. 16 at South Johnston.
West played at Fayetteville 71st Tuesday night. South’s next game is Dec. 3 at Princeton.