SMITHFIELD — Smithfield-Selma saved one of its best basketball games of the season for Senior Day.
Sophomore Jeffrey David poured in 18 points, leading four Spartans in double figures as they blew past visiting South Johnston 69-46 on Saturday.
The result gave SSS a direct shot at a state playoff spot, as Spartan coach James Robinson said their meeting at Corinth Holders Monday night would determine third place in the new Two Rivers 3A conference and a berth in the state bracket unless a lower-seeded team wins the conference tournament.
The win improved SSS to 7-15, 4-5 in the Two Rivers, while South fell to 9-13 and 2-7. This is the first academic year in which those long-time rivals have played in the same conference.
Seniors Tony Hobbs finished with 15 points, Zay Best 14 and Quantez Leach – who missed the entire football season as he received treatment for Hodgkin’s disease – added 13.
“Last time we played them they hit a lot of 3-pointers,” Robinson said. “We did a better job with that tonight. We gave up a lot of easy looks inside, but 3-point shooting is their strength.
“It was good execution by our defense, and their shots just weren’t falling. I don’t think anybody we sent out there did a bad job tonight.”
Juniors Alan Johnson led South with 18 points while Gage Massengill chipped in 14.
SSS had also won the previous meeting 59-48 on Feb. 5 in Four Oaks.
“It was a combination of Senior Night and Will (Holmes) not being able to get free for a shot,” South coach David Dewey said. “They played good ‘D’ on him.
“That and offensive boards. They’re so big they get a lot on us. But we play hard and compete on every possession and that’s all you can ask for.”
The Spartans never trailed, but steadily pulled away. They led 32-25 at halftime but added the first 11 points of the second half, going up 43-25 on Hobbs’ follow slam with 3:51 left in the third.
Leach’s follow dunk with one second left in the third made it 51-37.
“Tonight felt good,” Leach said. “We just knew we had to come together as a team. I’m proud of the guys.
“I’m feeling good now. I think my stamina is better than it was a year ago.”
Robinson credited senior Dequan Freeman for holding South senior sharpshooter Holmes without a field goal.
“I like to shoot, but tonight it wasn’t falling,” Freeman said. “So I worked even harder on defense tonight. I wanted to do whatever I could to keep him from touching the ball.”
Massengill said despite some disappointing losses the Trojans have established some winning habits this time in more than doubling their win total of last season.
“I wish we could have won,” Massengill said. “Will not being open hurt us. I’m glad Alan and I were able to get some points.
“We’re getting better at moving the ball around, going inside-out and playing good defense.”
Both teams ended their regular seasons on Monday against other their other Johnston County conference rivals, as South played its Senior Night game against Cleveland.