North Lenoir boys, girls defeat South Lenoir
North Lenoir's Terrance Copper surveys the court during Thursday's game against South Lenoir. Photo by William “Bud” Hardy / Neuse News
DEEP RUN | The Munn Curse has been exorcised by North Lenoir.
The Hawks defeated South Lenoir 72-60 Thursday in a place North Lenoir hadn't seen recent success. The Hawks' last win at Munn Gymnasium was on Feb. 7, 2014 in a 60-59 effort.
Nearly five years later, North Lenoir (8-8, 2-3 Eastern Carolina Conference) built a double-digit advantage in the second quarter and never looked back.
"After the first quarter, I thought our defense was great," Hawks coach Anthony Loftin said. "We were active on that end, then hit some good shots on offense. I'm happy with the way the guys responded, and now it's on to play Princeton Saturday."
South Lenoir (3-13, 0-6) had control early until a 9-1 run by North Lenoir, highlighted by a pair of Trevor Sears baskets, changed the pace. The Blue Devils got within 23-22 after the first quarter and tied the game with a Damari Raines free throw to start the second, but the Hawks went on another big run. De'Shaun Kee's 3-pointer and a pair of baskets from Nick Wooten were part of a 15-2 run to put the Hawks up for good.
South Lenoir did cut the deficit to 39-31 by halftime, then got five quick points from Rico Freeman to get within three early in the third. The Blue Devils would miss a shot inside before Kee hit another 3-pointer, followed by Terrance Copper's 3-point play to ignite a 13-0 spurt.
"We were definitely prepared for this game and were ready to go," Copper said. "They always play us tough here and it was great to get the win (my senior year.")
North Lenoir led by as many as 20 in the second half.
"Credit (Coach Loftin) and North Lenoir because they played hard," South Lenoir coach Jeremy Barnett said. "There were stretches in the second half where I felt like we were outhustled and that cannot happen."
For North Lenoir, Copper scored 15 points, Kee had 11 and Wooten added 10. For South Lenoir, Jaeden Dixon had 16 points and Raines added 10.
In the girls' game, North Lenoir remained undefeated in conference play with a 51-45 win and halted a 6-game skid against South Lenoir.
The last time the Hawks (9-4, 5-0) beat the Blue Devils was on Feb. 6, 2015 with a 62-43 victory.
"We knew it was a rivalry game and there was going to be great intensity," North Lenoir coach Howard Wooley said. "Our thing was protecting the ball and doing the little things. We struggled with shooting, but our defensive intensity was great."
The Hawks started the game up 9-2, but the Blue Devils (8-8, 2-4) fought back as Tiffany Croom's 3-pointer sparked a 14-3 spurt. South Lenoir led by as many as eight in the first half and took a 26-23 advantage heading toward intermission.
South Lenoir would go up 32-27mideat through the third on a Taniejah Mitchell basket, but North Lenoir went on a 10-0 run to establish control. The Hawks would go up 44-38 halfway through the fourth, but Mitchell hit two straight shots from beyond the arc to tie the game with 3:28 remaining.
Ashanti Lynch would break the tie with a basket 13 seconds later and the Hawks would use free throws to pull away. North Lenoir struggled mightily from the line, going 10 of 32, but Lynch hit three and Paula Mason had two in the last minute.
"I felt good hitting those free throws (at the end) because I had missed so many early on," Lynch said. "We were able to make plays at the end and I'm glad we got out with the win."
South Lenoir coach Donald Mooring said it came down to the basics.
"North Lenoir stepped up the defensive intensity," Mooring said. "Give credit to them, and we've got to work on our fundamentals and free throw shooting. We missed some crucial opportunities late that cost us."
Lynch led North Lenoir with 15 points, Integrity McPhail had 11 and Kanijah Taylor added 10. For South Lenoir, Mitchell had 17 points and 16 rebounds with Jenkins adding 13 points and four assists.