SMITHFIELD — South Johnston’s talented sophomores made sure on Saturday that the Trojan seniors will go out on top.
Sophomores center Emma Blackmon and sharpshooter Anna Webster finished with 19 points each, leading the way as South whipped host Smithfield-Selma 50-26 in girls’ basketball on the Spartans’ Senior Day.
Blackmon finished with 14 rebounds for a double-double, while senior teammate Alexis Massengill grabbed 11 boards.
The Trojans’ school record 17th straight win improved them to 18-4 overall and 9-0 in the new Two Rivers 3A Conference, assuring them their first conference regular-season title in 18 years.
“We weren’t shooting well in the first half and it took us a while to get into our groove,” South coach Ronda Langdon Johnson said. “Anna was hitting for us in the first half and Emma in the second, so we always had a go-to and that made everybody a little more relaxed.
“We always have a goal to score 50 points and we barely got there. I was glad we were able to start pulling away a little bit at the end and start hitting some buckets.”
Diamond Blackston led SSS with 12 points.
SSS, which is fighting for the conference’s third and final spot in the state tournament, fell to 4-18 and 3-6.
This is the first academic year in which the long-time rivals have played in the same conference.
South had won the previous meeting 66-32 on Feb. 5 in Four Oaks.
“South is a good perimeter shooting team,” SSS coach William Sanders said. “When you go ‘man’ the whole game it takes a lot out of you, but you have to do that with their good shooters.
“We’ve improved defensively, but we haven’t had to stay in ‘man’ that long in any game all season.”
South got out to a 7-0 lead before the Spartans responded with seven straight of their own, tying the score on a 3-pointer by Dannya Tavarez – who finished with six points – with 58 seconds left in the quarter.
But the Trojans stretched their lead to 23-12 at halftime behind 11 points from Webster and never trailed again.
“I just kept shooting and eventually they started falling,” said Webster, who had 31 in the first meeting with SSS. “We were moving the ball around really well.
“We’ve really come together as a team. It feels great to be a conference champion!”
Blackmon had 17 points in the second half as the Trojans outscored the Spartans 27-14.
“SSS is a big rival, and we just wanted to keep on winning,” Blackmon said. “This season has been awesome. There’s nothing better than winning.
“We have really good chemistry, and we’re all really good friends on and off the court and that really helps when we play.”
The teams ended their regular seasons on Monday against their other Johnston County conference rivals. South played its Senior Night game against Cleveland, while SSS visited Corinth Holders.