LILLINGTON — The Smithfield-Selma boys basketball team was too little, too late in their Friday night clash at Western Harnett.
The Spartans never led after the opening minutes and fell 47-36 after a fourth-quarter rally fell flat.
After notching just four points in the third quarter, Smithfield-Selma entered the final period faced with a 13-point deficit. The Spartans came out in a full-court trap and a long 3-pointer by Quantez Leach ignited a 15-7 surge that cut the Eagle lead to 41-36 with four minutes to play.
But after a timeout, the Spartans were held scoreless for the remainder of the game to drop to 4-11 on the season and 1-1 in the Two Rivers 3A Conference. Western Harnett improved to 2-13 and 2-0 in conference play.
“We just couldn’t put the ball in the basket,” Smithfield-Selma assistant coach Matt Cuddington said of the final four minutes. “We’re a streaky shooting team which is why we like to get out in transition. We can’t make careless turnovers and that’s been the story of our season.”
Turning Point: The same defensive trap that led to turnovers and transition points for the Spartans in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter led to three uncontested buckets for the Eagles after the timeout.
Western Harnett was finally able to break the press down the stretch just as the Spartans went cold from the floor and the Eagles pulled away with a quick 6-0 run to turn the 41-36 lead into the 47-36 final.
“A lot of times we had our trap established but they split it and a trap is no good if it’s split,” Cuddington said.
What Didn’t Work: The Spartans struggled to get their horses running offensively. Leach (12.5 points per game) was limited to just one point through three quarters and eight overall. Jeffrey David (9.9 ppg) was held scoreless in the second half after scoring six first-half points. Raequan Smith (9.1 ppg) scored just two points – the final bucket of the game for the Spartans.
The 36 points was the lowest output of the season for Smithfield-Selma, which entered the night averaging almost 54 points per outing. In fact, it was the lowest point total since Dec. 20, 2011 when the Spartans scored 35 points in a loss to Triton.
“In the first half we just couldn’t buy a bucket,” Cuddington said. “Just couldn’t buy a bucket.”
Unsung Hero: Senior Zay Best scored 12 of his team-high 14 points in the first half for the Spartans.
Best Quote: “If you don’t show up on any given night anything can happen,” Cuddington said. “In high school basketball you have to show up for 32 minutes and if you don’t show up for 32 minutes then that’s a problem. It starts with consistent effort and a sense of urgency. In the fourth quarter we had a sense of urgency and we were much better as a team. The body language picked up and it just changed the whole character of what we were.”