BY MICHAEL HELD
KENLY—North Johnston boys basketball coach Chris Batten would have rather been playing in the championship game in the North Johnston Holiday Invitational Basketball Tournament on Thursday night, but the Panthers did salvage a positive tournament experience with a 69-57 win over Falls Lake Academy in the consolation game.
Rakim Stancil and Kameron Williams each went for 20 points and Justin Vann made the most of his opportunity starting as he finished the game with 17 points to provide North Johnston (7-4) a three-pronged attack that was too much for the Firebirds to handle.
“We made a decision there to go with a smaller lineup,” Batten said of starting an extra guard (Vann). “It’s one of these things if it works you’re a genius and if it doesn’t work you’re an idiot. Not only Justin’s scoring but also his energy did a lot for us. He did a great job disrupting some things with his quick energy on the floor.”
The Panthers sprinted out to a 9-0 lead to start out the game and all five starters got on the scoreboard in the opening eight minutes of play en route to a 22-14 lead after the opening quarter. Vann had six points in the second quarter as the Panthers extended the lead to 13 points by halftime.
Falls Lake Academy’s Caleb Cudek led the Firebirds with 20 points and all-tournament selection Drew Fletcher followed up his 17-point performance the night before in a loss to Union with 14 more points in the defeat against the Panthers.
In North Johnston’s first game of the tournament, the Panthers went back-and-forth with Durham School of the Arts and trailed by a single point at the conclusion of an entertaining first half of basketball.
The third quarter was a different story, however, as the Bulldogs outscored the hosts 28-12 to take control of the game.
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