Junious Smith III: A Five-Piece for the second half of basketball season
Basketball sustained The Flourish Post last season.
There were a multitude of storylines and great teams last year, making the job of putting together stories much easier. There was true tension and amazing contests throughout the season, and while it helped me establish a medium to report it, being able to document the games was a true blessing.
This year is no different along the lines of drama, and I’ll try to tackle five of the bigger stories in a familiar setting for those who were fans of The Flourish Post before the transition to Neuse News.
1. Kinston will be fine, calm down
I get it: the Vikings are 8-3 with a couple of tough games in the Bunn Holiday Tournament with a loss to East Wake and squeaking by Bunn in double overtime. Let’s also remember Kinston fell to two strong 4A teams by single digits on neutral sights and the other one came to Greene Central in overtime on the road. As spoken on The Flourish Hill Podcast (check it out at flourishhill.com if you’d like), the Vikings have some work to do with hierarchy, but this is still one of the top 2A teams in the state.
The girls may be mired in the biggest slump through the Christopher Bradshaw era, dropping five straight — including three rough ones at The John Wall Invitational — but there’s no reason to panic. Kinston will have a couple nonconference matches against Greenville Rose and West Carteret (combined record 3-18) before getting back into conference play. A six-game win streak before a Jan. 23 rematch against Goldsboro wouldn’t be difficult to envision.
2. Greene Central’s boys could be a state threat again
The Rams don’t have the greatest record at 7-5, but the losses came to nationally ranked South Central (twice) and three to Farmville Central, who is still undefeated after a 77-71 overtime win over Greene Central in the Pitt County Christmas tournament finals. The team being able to transition under new coach Blue Edwards helps, but the Rams have great height and post presence as well, led by Imajae Dodd and Donte Johnson. The development of guards such as B.J. Corbitt, Hysaan Hudson and Kentrell Suggs is an X-Factor, and if they can continue to work, the Rams have the potential to make a third straight deep run.
3. Third place is wide open in the boys’ ECC
Granted, Greene Central, Ayden-Grifton and West Craven are all undefeated so far in conference play. As of now, I feel confident the Rams and Kinston will be the top two teams at the end. Still, the Chargers, Eagles and North Lenoir Hawks provide a lot of intrigue. West Craven is 6-2 behind the strong play of Laqueze Campbell (22.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.9 spg) and Latrell Campbell (13.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.3 spg) and can shoot well. Ayden-Grifton and North Lenoir may have 5-6 records overall, but the teams have solid components with intrigue. The Chargers did play Farmville Central close Dec. 20 and besides strong guard play led by Jordan Atkinson and James Richardson, Nate Harris has been a strong inside presence. On the other side, the Hawks blew out Ayden-Grifton in the Pitt County Christmas tournament and players such as De’Shaun Kee and Trevor Sears have played pivotal roles.
The Hawks will play Greene Central at The Swamp Friday for the LCC Game of the Week (with myself and Graham Hill on broadcast), so we’ll see if they can get a leg up as being another ECC legitimate threat.
4. It’s still the Kinston girls’ ECC, unless…
Kinston and North Lenoir (4-4) are the only ECC teams with .500 records at the moment. The Vikings could go through the conference unscathed, but North Lenoir and Ayden-Grifton could be very solid roadblocks. The Hawks have a pair of strong guards in Ashanti and Emmenia Lynch, a good post presence in Kanijah Taylor, one of the best shooters in the ECC in Integrity McPhail, and a slew of players teeming with potential. For the Chargers, a three-game losing streak has derailed a 4-3 start a season after going 0-20, but Ayden-Grifton has upped its scoring 12.2 points per game, as players like Jewelniyha Williams and Zy’kierah Andrews making an impact.
Don’t count South Lenoir out, a team with some strong players (Destiny Hall, Gralicia Jenkins, Taniejah Mitchell) or Washington, who defeated Ayden-Grifton earlier this year. There is a bit of intrigue in the area, but if Kinston plays to its potential consider this wing a moot point.
5. A quick run of the non-ECC teams
For the boys, Arendell Parrott was able to break a four-game skid with a 78-63 win over South Lenoir on Dec. 28 and will hope to carry the momentum into a three-game stretch on the road, starting with Cape Fear Academy, ranked in the state’s Top 30 according to Maxpreps. Bethel Christian has alternated wins and losses over the past eight games, but has a chance to improve to 2-0 in the NCCSA with a victory over Wilson Christian Friday. Jones Senior will get some momentum heading back into Coastal Plains Conference play after a thrilling 51-50 win over New Bern on Dec. 27 on a Josh Richardson buzzer-beater.
On the girls’ side, Arendell Parrott had a five-game win streak ended by the hands of Cape Fear Academy in unceremonious fashion with hopes to get revenge Friday in the team’s first game since Dec. 7. Bethel Christian is hoping to end a seven-game streak Friday in its first game since Dec. 14, where the Trojans lost 36-33 in double overtime to Faith Christian. Jones Senior is still developing and searching for its first win. The Trojans played Tarboro Thursday on the road and travel to Chocowinity Southside Friday.