Ayden-Grifton defeats South Lenoir in close matches
AYDEN | After dropping three of their first four games, the Ayden-Grifton Chargers won their first conference game on Wednesday against Washington. On Friday night, they hosted the 1-5 South Lenoir Blue Devils.
Despite shooting 7-20 from the free throw line, the Chargers jumped out early and held out to defeat South Lenoir, 65-53.
“This has been the story of our season so far,” said South Lenoir coach Jeremy Barnett. “We struggle to put the ball in the basket. We’re getting open shots, but they are not falling in. we played well on defense, but we could do better. But we can’t seem to score when we have the opportunities. We can create turnovers, but not turn them into points.”
Both teams came firing right out of the gate. . South Lenoir’s Jensen Barwick hit a three pointer and Ayden’s Moses Tufts fired one off of his own. Some early turnovers gave the Chargers a slight edge and James Richardson, who had 17 points in the game, would accentuate the Charger lead with a big slam dunk near the end of the quarter as Ayden-Grifton held a 20-10 lead.
“We did good on offense and we stole the ball away from them a lot,” said Tufts, who scored 10 points for Ayden-Grifton. “We missed a lot of free throws. We need to work on that. We also turned the ball over a lot in the second half. Still, it’s great to be 2-0 in the conference.”
Both teams would employ a tighter defense in the second quarter. While the scoring wasn’t there, the intensity still was. South Lenoir would go on a little run, near the end of the first half, but Tufts would nail a three pointer at the buzzer to put the Chargers up 33-19 at halftime.
“In the first half we came out strong and pressed them well,” Coach John Moye said. “We got a lot of steals. Jeremy (Barnett) is a great coach and he made some adjustments in the second half that hit us in the mouth. They got some open shots and stunned us pretty well.”
Coming back from the break, South Lenoir went on a 7-0 run to start the second half, highlighted by Barwick’s third three pointer of the game. But the Blue Devils could not maintain their momentum. Not only did Ayden-Grifton get their scoring touch back, but South Lenoir lost theirs. The Blue Devils would outscore Ayden-Grifton 22-12 in the third, but the Chargers would still hold a 45-39 lead.
“We had a good game, “ said Jordan Atkinson, who scored 10 for the Chargers. “We could have done a better job defensively later in the game, but I thought we played well.”
Barwick would hit a three to close the gap to three points for South Lenoir to open the fourth. Both team battled back and forth, trading points. South Lenoir was desperately trying to claw back while Ayden-Grifton was doing everything they could to keep them at bay.
“Barwick gave us a little spark there near the end,” said Barnett. “He plays real hard. You know what you are getting with a player like him. He does his best to carry the team. If we can play smarter with him, we can win some of these games.”
Barwick led the Blue Devils with 12 points. Damani Raines would have nine.
“We played well, but the defense has to play more consistent, “ Moye said. “We sat on their shooters near the end and shut them down. We need to do that all the time and we can. We have to play better defense, pass the ball smarter, and hit those free throws down.”
Coach Moye also praised the performance of Nathan Harris who led the team with 19 points. “He was big down low for us. He helped to set up some plays, get some clutch shots, and made his presence known tonight.”
SOUTH LENOIR: Barwick 12, Raines 9, Freeman 7, Kennion 7, Miller 6, Thigpen 6, McClain 4, Williams 2
AYDEN-GRIFTON: Harris 19, Richardson 17, Atkinson 10, Tufts 10, Wright 4, Gunter 2, Hudson 2
In the girls’ game, the Ayden-Grifton Chargers girls basketball team are now 4-3 after a 42-35 win over 2-5 South Lenoir. After winning their first conference game this week against Washington, the Chargers repeated their success.
“We just couldn’t make any shots or passes tonight,” Blue Devils Coach Donald Mooring said. “We are still trying to figure out who we are. We’re working together and still learning, but we’re going through some growing pains right now.”
The scoring was low to start. South Lenoir went on a 4-0 run to start the game, but the Chargers would take the lead with a three pointer from Sari Docsh. But Gralicia Jenkins would score six in the opening frame to carry the Blue Devils to a 12-7 lead.
“The win feels great,” Chargers Coach Charles Kessel said. “They came out and played us hard and we met their intensity well. I’m very proud of our girls and how they met the challenge tonight. South Lenoir is a well coached team and our girls played them hard all game. They played very disciplined and slowed down a tough offensive team.”
In the first minute of the second Jewelniya Williams would nail a three point shot that rallied the Chargers. She would score five points in the opening minute of the quarter to give Ayden-Grifton the lead as the Chargers’ defense kept stealing passes by the Blue Devils. Williams would hit another trey to extend Ayden’s lead over South Lenoir. She would score 12 of her overall 17 points in the second. South Lenoir would get energized in the last two minutes and cut that lead to 24-23 for AG.
“This was a great win for our team,” Williams said. “We passed the ball well. We played great defense. It’s great to be 2-0 in conference. Now, we just gotta keep pushing forward.
Scoring was hard to come by in the third quarter. It took five minutes before the Blue Devil could find the bottom of the net. In that time, the Chargers had hit four shots to build on their lead. The scoring drought would continue to roll over into the fourth quarter; however, Ayden-Grifton was able to maintain the lead in the second half that they had been building on earlier in the game.
Maya Hardy had eight points and led the team with six steals. Zy’keriah Andrews had six points and led the Chargers with 10 rebounds.
“We did a good job from the free throw line,” Kessel said. “Hardy had a good game for us, getting some clutch shots. Williams is starting to find her place in our offense. She is becoming more and more enmeshed in our team and the more she does, the better she is getting.”
Jenkins would lead the Blue Devils with 14 points and three blocks. Taniejah Mitchell would have a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
“Some of the girls are really stepping up and coming together,” said Mooring. “It’s a learning curve, but we’re getting there.”
SOUTH LENOIR: Jenkins 14, Mitchell 11, Croom 7, Hall 3
AYDEN-GRIFTON: Williams 17, Hardy 8, Andrews 6, Little 4, Docsh 3, Bryant 2, Smith 2