Blue Devils survive a battle against Jones Senior
The South Lenoir Blue Devils were hoping to stop a two-game skid as they hosted the Jones Senior Trojans in a non-conference game on Friday night.
South Lenoir ended up on top, thanks in part to an 18-point performance by Rico Freeman, winning 60-49.
“We came out real flat tonight, but the guys on the bench kept us in it,” Freeman said. “Once the starters got back, we were able to do our thing. But I have to give credit to our defensive play for keeping us in it.”
Both teams started off very slowly, as at the end of the first quarter, it was only 6-6.
“We played a strong zone defense and kept them from getting comfortable shooting from the outside,” Trojans coach Dexter Cannon said. “Our legs were just worn out from our game against Pamlico the day before and I think we just ran out of steam at the end there. But we played hard tonight.”
The two teams did a better job of scoring in the second, but they still remained neck and neck throughout the quarter. Solid defensive play prevented high quality shots. Every missed shot was quickly rebounded by the defense. Jones Senior started to pull ahead, but a three pointer by Rico Freeman helped to bring South Lenoir back. Both teams remained tied at halftime, 18-18.
“It was ugly on both sides of the ball early on,” South Lenoir coach Jeremy Barnett said. “I sent in our bench out there so our starters could get their heads back into the game. Our bench kept us in this game. They kept it close. These guys don’t usually get a lot of minutes, but they played their hearts out tonight. I’m really proud of them.”
The dam burst open in the third quarter as both teams finally found their scoring touch. Freeman and Jensen Barwick would each sink threes to help the Blue Devils keep pace with the Trojans. Both South Lenoir and Jones Senior would score more in the third than they did in the entire first half. However, at the buzzer to end the quarter, Syheen Sauls nailed a three point shot to tie the game at 40 apiece.
“We came out strong in the third and made some key shots,” Cannon said. “But we couldn’t find a shot in the fourth that killed us in this game.”
For the first four minutes of the fourth, the two teams stayed close. At the halfway point, Barwick stripped the ball and took it all the way for a layup. His shot seemed to ignite the Blue Devils as they began to shoot more confidently. As their shots began to hit their marks, suddenly Jones Senior went flat, connecting on only one of six three point shots. In addition, South Lenoir shot 10 for 12 from the free throw line to put some distance between the two teams.
“Every team we play is going to be bigger than us. We can’t help that,” Barnett said. “What we need to do is learn how to turn defensive turnovers into points and move the ball up. We did that successfully tonight in the second half and that was one of the keys to us winning.”
JONES SENIOR: Richardson 17, Dejour Brown 8, Hall 4, Schaeffer 4, Detorian Brown 4, Ellis 4, Sauls 3, Scott 2, Pegues 1
SOUTH LENOIR: Freeman 18, Raines 10, Barwick 9, McClain 8, Williams 7, Kennion 3, Miller 2, Ireland 2