FOUR OAKS — South Johnston’s last shot at extending a memorable 21-win season banked softly off of the square of the backboard, then danced off of the front of the rim Wednesday night, ending the Trojans’ bid for a berth in the girls basketball sectional finals.
The shot, just like the high school careers of seven seniors (Kalya Allen, Krista Collins, Katie Hodges, Brittany Lawrence, Alexis Massengill, Dava McLamb and Kylie Medlin), then fell innocently to the floor.
Sixth-seeded South Johnston (21-6) came oh-so-close in a 36-33 loss to 11th-seeded Terry Sanford on Wednesday in the second round of the girls’ basketball state playoffs. The loss put an end to a season in which the Trojans finished 21-6 overall, went 10-0 in the Two Rivers 3A conference — its first unbeaten regular-season in conference play in 18 years — and enjoyed a 19-game winning streak.
It didn’t come without some drama: South Johnston had four chances to either take the lead or tie the game in the final minute.
“We just didn’t execute near the end,” South Johnston coach Ronda Langdon Johnson said. “In the last minute we did several things that are unlike us that just cost us. We didn’t execute when we had to execute. When it’s a tight ballgame and you have to score, you have to execute every time you come down on offense.”
Trailing 34-32 with 51 seconds left, Anna Webster was fouled on a putback attempt and went to the line where she made good on one of two shots to trim the deficit to 34-33.
Still trailing by the same margin, South Johnston got the ball back with 41 seconds left after the Bulldogs missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw. The Trojans quickly pushed the ball up court but a telegraphed pass was intercepted and turned the other way.
The Trojans caught another break, however, when Terry Sanford was whistled for traveling just seconds later and the ball went back to South Johnston with 28 seconds remaining. This time, Alexis Massengill drove the baseline and drew contact, but couldn’t get the bucket or the foul and the Bulldogs grabbed the rebound.
After a pair of Terry Sanford free throws stretched it to 36-33 with 11 seconds left, the Trojans called a timeout following a broken play with less than a second remaining on the clock and having to inbound at halfcourt. The pass came into McKinley Johnson, who heaved one from well beyond the 3-point line (the aforementioned lst shot). It found the backboard first and then the front end of the rim, nearly falling through to force overtime.
“She got a good shot off,” Langdon Johnson said. “She really did. It could’ve just as easily gone into overtime.”
The Trojans hit two cold spells during the game that proved costly. After taking an 18-17 lead with 5:10 remaining in the third quarter, the Trojans did not score another point the rest of the period as Terry Sanford took a six-point lead into the fourth.
Then after tying the game 29-29 with 4:06 remaining in the fourth, South Johnston did not hit another field goal the rest of the night, surrendering the lead for good just seconds later.
Webster led the Trojans with nine points, followed by Massengill and Emma Blackmon with eight apiece.
Ona Udoh scored 16 points for the Bulldogs, including 12 of her team’s 19 second-half points.
“I’m very proud of them,” an emotional Langdon Johnson said. “It’s probably the closest team I’ve had in a long time. We didn’t want it to end but it’s got to end sometime.”