SMITHFIELD — The first half of the Two Rivers 3A Conference season, and for that matter, most of the regular season to this point, has not been as kind to the Smithfield-Selma boys as they would have liked.
Heading into this week’s conference matchups against Western Harnett and South Johnston, the Spartan found themselves in the bottom half of the conference standings with an all-important six-game, 10-day stretch before them.
SSS took the first two big steps toward their goal of winning out with a 47-43 win over Western on Tuesday and a 59-48 win over rival South Johnston on the road Wednesday.
Against the Eagles on Tuesday, SSS led wire-to-wire in the nightcap, holding off Western Harnett 47-43 thanks to some sharp perimeter shooting from Raequan Smith and a solid game in the paint from Zay Best.
The Smithfield-Selma boys basketball team jumped out to an early lead thanks to three first-quarter 3-pointers from Raequan Smith.
In the first meeting against the Eagles, the Spartans struggled mightily offensively but did a better job against Western Harnett’s zone defense the second time around.
“We’ve got a ways to go but we were really good tonight against their zone,” Smithfield-Selma coach James Robinson said. “We showed patience against the zone and I thought we took a lot of great shots. It helped with Raequan hitting a groove early.”
Smith hit from behind the three-point line on consecutive trips down the court and three times in all in just the final two minutes of the first quarter to stake the Spartans to a 15-7 lead after one quarter of play.
The lead grew to as many as 10 points in the first half before the Eagles (2-16, 2-3) began to gradually chip away at it and got to within one point midway through the third quarter.
Behind Jonathan Buie (14 points, 15 rebounds) and Chris Johnson (11 points), Western Harnett kept the game close the rest of the night. However, four Eagle turnovers in the game’s final three minutes and key free throws from Smithfield-Selma’s Jeffrey David and Smith sealed the game.
Smith ended the game with 17 points. Zay Best contributed 14 points with much of his offense coming close to the basket.
The Spartans (6-13, 3-3), with an eye on making the postseason, moved to within one game of third place and the final playoff berth from the conference with the win and began an important stretch of six games in 10 days.
“That’s to our advantage because we did that the first part of the year when nobody else did,” Robinson said of his team’s difficult early season schedule. “We had 13 games and only had five practices in that time frame; we’re used to that.”