KENLY — For the second time in seven days, the North Johnston and Princeton basketball teams took to the court in front of a packed house, this time at the home of the Panthers, adding another chapter to the schools’ friendly yet intense rivalry.
In both games, the Panthers jumped out to early leads, bolstered by home court advantage and boisterous fans.
But despite the change in venue – the teams played in Princeton a week earlier – the results were the same. The North Johnston girls capitalized on a hot start en route to a 63-48 win, while the boys lost the nightcap after a quick start themselves, falling to the Bulldogs 68-55.
Jamie Johnson and Tangela Williams played inspired basketball Friday night in front of their home crowd to lead the Panthers past Princeton.
Johnson connected on four of seven attempts from three-point range and finished the game with 24 points, while the speedy Williams was also a thorn in the Bulldogs’ side, providing North Johnston with 22 points and six steals.
“I think one thing that helped is that we hit open shots,” North Johnston coach Jay Poole said of his team’s offensive execution. “If you can stretch a defense out, that’s always a good thing and opens up things for others.”
Savanna Massengill tried to keep the Bulldogs (2-5) in the contest, as the senior center led Princeton with 28 points and 11 rebounds.
“Savanna brings her ‘A’ game just about every night,” Princeton coach Marty Gurganus said. “There is a determination about her, an effort about her. She looks for opportunities to make her teammates better, and there was a span there in the game when she kept us close.”
After falling behind by as many as 16 points in the third quarter, Princeton drew to within nine points on two different occasions early in the fourth quarter. But both times, North Johnston responded with a bucket on the following trip down the court.
“Every time we made a run, they made a big basket,” Gurganus said.
In the end, the Panthers’ fast start made the difference. North Johnston raced to a 9-2 lead just two minutes into the game and never trailed.
“We’ve been a little notorious the past couple games getting off to a slow start,” Poole said. “We focused on our pre-game and being ready and listening to everything, and they did a much better job tonight.”
Chandler Hines and Olivia Narron provided some extra scoring punch for the Panthers (6-2) with six points apiece, while Kelsey Peedin and Chelsea Hawley played well at point guard for the Bulldogs, scoring seven and six points, respectively.
Whether it was the three-point line or free throw line, the Princeton boys did well to take as many shots as they could behind either one in the Bulldogs’ win.
The Bulldogs hit eight of 11 three-point attempts and 26 of 43 free throws to erase an early 9-0 deficit and improve to 4-3 on the season.
Michael Wooten made good on four of his five three-pointers and paced Princeton with 21 points, 15 of which came after halftime.
North Johnston (3-5) scored the contest’s first nine points as seniors Trey Daniels and Tanner Snipes asserted themselves from the outset.
“We got off to a better start, but we let them back in by not boxing out,” said North Johnston coach Derrick Johnson. “We didn’t do a good job rebounding during the stretch there where they got back close.”
The Bulldogs finished the first quarter lucky to be down just one point, thanks to a 12-4 run over the opening period’s final five minutes.
The Panthers hung tough in the second quarter, but a 6-0 Princeton run to start the second half gave the Bulldogs a 10-point lead that North Johnston couldn’t erase.
“This is a big win just to beat them just because of the rivalry,” Princeton coach Jeff Davis said. “My seniors have never lost to them, and they were excited about that.”
Colby Norris provided some much-needed aggressiveness in the paint with 14 points and seven rebounds for the Bulldogs, while Reggie Perry came off the bench for eight points.
Daniels finished the game with 14 points to lead the Panthers while Snipes totaled eight. Tyler Hodge provided a spark off the bench for North Johnston with 10 points.