North Lenoir gets convincing wins over SW Edgecombe
LA GRANGE — After topping Ayden-Grifton in the Pitt County Christmas Tournament, the North Lenoir Hawks had lost three straight games. On Tuesday night, they hosted the Southwest Edgecombe Cougars, whom they defeated in an earlier match-up in December.
The Hawks were able to dig deep and put the game away as they won in convincing fashion with an 82-65 victory.
North Lenoir was led by Tyrek Artis, who scored 19 points and had six rebounds.
“Artis had a big game for us. We really relied on him,” North Lenoir coach Anthony Loftin said. ”We’ve been working on plays to involve him more. He was a big part of our second-half run. The whole team was unselfish tonight in passing the ball to each other and trying to get everyone involved.”
Artis started off strong for the Hawks, scoring six points in the first two minutes. Likewise, Southwest Edgecombe’s Slate Hinton drained three 3-point shots to give the Cougars an early lead. North Lenoir responded by spreading the offense around, but the Cougars kept it close as they continued to nail 3-pointers; six total in the first quarter and 11 overall.
Jayden Gatling hit one for the Hawks as the final seconds of the first ticked off to give North Lenoir a 23-18 lead.
“It’s great and bad at the same time to hit so many 3s,” Cougars coach Shelton Langley said. “We relied on them early on and they kept us in this game, but we couldn’t get them later on when we really could have used them. Our inside game struggled and we couldn’t maintain the momentum we needed. North Lenoir has a lot of great athletes, and we can be as athletic as them.
“We just can’t let a team just beat us around the inside like they did if we want to get better.”
After the fast-paced action of the first, both teams struggled to make a shot early on in the second quarter. While SW Edgecombe struggled in the inside lanes, their long shots kept them close. At halftime, the Cougars trailed, 37-36.
The Cougars came back from halftime sinking two more treys to retake the lead. SW Edgecombe took a lead, but the Hawks battled back and keep it close. De’Shaun Kee’s 3-pointer, his second of the night, reclaimed the lead for the Hawks. His shot sparked the Hawks and Artis capped off the third with a dunk to put the Hawks up 62-52 with one quarter to go.
“We had a great third quarter,” Loftin said. “We fell behind and Kee’s shot helped turn it around. The momentum swung our way and we kept it. We shut down their passing lanes and scored a lot on turnovers. We built up a big lead and that was great for us.”
North Lenoir continued to roll in the fourth. Even a slam dunk by Southwest’s Keishon Porter wasn’t enough to spark his team. Porter had a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Hinton added 14 and Dorian Ruffian scored 12 for the Cougars.
“Porter is an incredible athlete. I felt we did a great job in containing him,” Loftin said.
Kee scored 15 points in the game for North Lenoir; Jamir Jones-Gatling scored 12 and Nyjai Koonce added 10 points. Jordan Blow scored nine points for the Hawks; seven of which came in the fourth quarter.
SOUTHWEST EDGECOMBE: Porter 17, Hinton 14, Ruffian 12, Mayo 7, Collins 5, Lewis 3, Wilkins 3, Dunn 2, Richardson 2, Sledge 2
NORTH LENOIR: Artis 19, Kee 15, Jones-Gatling 12, Koonce 10, Blow 9, Sears 6, Gatling 6, Brown 2, Copper 2
The Southwest Edgecombe Cougars have gone 9-1 this year, including a close opening matchup against the North Lenoir Hawks. The Hawks, winners of three of their last four games, hoped to return the favor as they hosted the Cougars.
Led by a 28-point performance by Ashanti Lynch, the Hawks crushed the Cougars 72-46 as they dominated on both sides of the ball.
“We played great on defense tonight, especially right off the bat,” North Lenoir coach Howard Wooley said. “We worked hard to get this win. Southwest Edgecombe is a very well coached team and they beat us by just a few points when we saw them last.”
The Hawks employed a full court press defense that flustered the Cougars early on. The Hawks built up a 10-point lead, but in the final three minutes the lead evaporated as the Cougars composed themselves and began to hit their shots. With a minute to go in the opening frame, the score was tied, but North Lenoir’s Integrity McPhail broke it with a long 3-pointer from atop the circle. NL held a 20-17 lead at the end of the first.
After the offensive outburst in the opening quarter, both teams slowed it down to start the second. After the Cougars took a brief lead on Bailey Davis’ second 3-pointer of the night, McPhail struck with a trey of her own to jump-start the North Lenoir offense.
“Davis scored 30 points on us the last time we faced them,” Wooley said. “We did our best to contain her and make sure she didn’t get any good shots. I think we did a great job containing her.”
Davis led the Cougars with 20 points.
The Hawks went back to their full-court press and suffocated SW Edgecombe’s offense, denying them any points in the final four minutes of the first half. Lynch ended the half with a 3-point shot, giving the Hawks a 41-23 lead.
“We came out with a lot of intensity,” Lynch said. “We just kept that up the whole game. We talked good with each other. We shot well. This was important to us because they beat us at their place and we wanted to defend our home. We all did our jobs tonight.”
The Cougars opened up the second half with nine unanswered points but Lynch ended the drought for North Lenoir with a pair of layups off steals halfway through the third. Another 3-pointer by McPhail built that lead back up. Rolling into the fourth, North Lenoir opened with six unanswered points and kept adding to their massive lead.
“I just want us to get better every night,” Wooley said. “We are in a tough conference. The games we have lost have all been hard-fought games against well-coached teams. This is going to toughen us up and strengthen us for conference play. We are taking things one game at a time and working hard in practice to improve ourselves. “
In addition to Lynch, McPhail had 18 points and Kanijah Taylor had 16. Taylor led the team with eight rebounds.
“Kanijah did great tonight,” Wooley said. “She has been averaging almost a double-double every night. Integrity played great on offense and defense. Janiya Jones also played great defense for us. Great team effort by the girls tonight.”
SOUTHWEST EDGECOMBE: Davis 20, Battle 12, McKinney 6, Moody 6, Smallwood 2, Glass 1
NORTH LENOIR: A Lynch 28, McPhail 18. Taylor 16, E Lynch 2, Mason 2, Jones 2, Kornegay 2