BY MICHAEL HELD
NEWTON GROVE—The North Johnston girls basketball team built some momentum heading into the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2A state playoffs having made a run to the championship game of the Eastern Plains Conference tournament the week before.
That momentum meant little to the Panthers’ first round opponent, Midway, however as the co-champions of the East Central Conference turned back North Johnston 59-37.
The Raiders’ Leah Williams hurt the Panthers (18-7) to the tune of 25 points. Meanwhile, North Johnston was cold from the field for most of the game except for the second quarter during which Lindsey Massengill and Arial Pearce helped put a dent in what was a 17-point Midway lead and turning it into a nine-point deficit at the break.
“Now I felt really encouraged in the second quarter when we cut (the lead) to nine at half; that’s not bad,” said North Johnston coach Jay Poole. “But in the third quarter, Jada (Santiago) immediately picked up that fourth foul and then it went back to us having to change our lineup. That threw things off a little bit.”
With Santiago, who did a good job limiting the Raiders’ No. 2 leading scorer J.J. Sankey, out, the Panthers were forced to go to a smaller lineup and started getting hurt inside and on the boards, which eventually led to Williams going off.
Williams entered the game averaging just a hair shy of 21 points per game and the senior reached that mark by the end of the third quarter after taking away the Panthers’ hopes at a comeback as she scored eight in the period and Midway outscored their guests 12-1 to seal the game.
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