North Lenoir boys, South Lenoir girls win in The Swamp for Senior Night
North Lenoir’s De’Shaun Kee shoots over the defense of South Lenoir’s C.J. Kennion during Wednesday’s game. Photo by William “Bud” Hardy / Neuse News
LA GRANGE | Senior Night was a very memorable one for North Lenoir’s boys basketball team.
The Hawks defeated South Lenoir 72-52 Wednesday, getting the first season sweep of their rivals since the 2013-14 campaign. North Lenoir (11-12, 4-7 Eastern Carolina Conference) defeated South Lenoir 72-60 on the road Jan. 17, and caught fire in the second half to put the Blue Devils (4-18, 1-11) away in the rematch.
“Coach (Anthony Loftin) told us to come out and play with more passion at halftime, and we were able to pull away at the end,” North Lenoir guard De’Shaun Kee said.
Although the Hawks never trailed in Wednesday’s match, the Blue Devils were able to hang around in the first half. North Lenoir went up by as many as 12, but South Lenoir whittled the deficit to 25-17 at halftime and got within four after a pair of C.J. Kennion free throws.
Kee answered with a 3-point play, followed by a steal and layup from Jamir Gatling. South Lenoir would never get within seven again with Kee leading the charge, scoring 11 of his game-high 20 points in the third to put North Lenoir ahead 53-36 after three.
The highlight of the night came with 5:35 left when Kee went on a fast break and threw down a one-handed jam, his first with the Hawks.
“It was something I had been working on all season and was hoping I’d get a chance to do it,” Kee said. “It felt like the right thing to do on Senior Night.”
Kee was one of six seniors honored, along with Gatling, Tyrek Artis, Jordan Blow, Terrance Copper and Makariee Grady. Blow scored 11 of his 12 points in the second half and said he was glad to finish his final regular-season home game with a victory.
“It was a great team win,” Blow said. “I’m proud of everyone and we had a great gameplan for (South Lenoir).”
For South Lenoir, the regular season ended in tough fashion and the team has to prepare for the Eastern Carolina Conference tournament next week.
“We’ll get a little rest and be prepared for our next opponent,” South Lenoir coach Jeremy Barnett said. “I feel bad for the kids — they tried hard and we played great defense in the first half while our offense stalled. In the third quarter, our offense picked up but our defense wasn’t as strong. It isn’t because of a lack of effort, so I take the blame for not having them as prepared.”
NORTH LENOIR 72, SOUTH LENOIR 52
SL 5 12 19 16—52
NL 10 15 28 19—72
SOUTH LENOIR — C.J. Kennion 14, Jaeden Dixon 10, Thigpen 8, Ellis 7, Raines 6, Freeman 6, Miller 1
NORTH LENOIR — De’Shaun Kee 20, Jordan Blow 12, Sears 9, Jay. Gatling 8, Koonce 6, Copper 4, Jam. Gatling 4, Hawkins 4, Artis 3, Grady 2
Three-pointers: SL — Dixon. NL — Kee 3, Jay. Gatling 2.
In the girls' game, South Lenoir played spoiler in a 48-43 victory.
The Blue Devils (12-10, 6-6) lost a 12-point lead in the second half, but recovered to knock North Lenoir (13-6, 9-2) out of the running for a conference title.
The Hawks' loss gives Kinston its second straight ECC championship.
"This felt amazing," South Lenoir's Toni Foster said after playing her final regular-season game. "This season has been tough and I've been sick the past couple of weeks. We came in as the underdog, but we kept our composure and got the win."
South Lenoir took an early 6-2 lead, but Ashanti Lynch’s 3-pointer and Kanijah Taylor’s putback put North Lenoir in front. The Blue Devils would change the momentum with an 11-1 run, highlighted by Foster’s basket as time expired in the first quarter. The Hawks went 0-14 in the second quarter from the field and trailed 23-10 going into the break.
South Lenoir coach Donald Mooring said the team made alterations after falling 51-45 to North Lenoir Jan. 17.
"We changed defenses," Mooring said. "I coached poorly in the first meeting and we played in a 2-3 zone the whole game. This time around, we went to three or four different defenses to keep them guessing.”
North Lenoir started to crack the South Lenoir defense, but the Blue Devils went into the fourth up 37-25 after a Destiny Hall free throw. In the final frame, North Lenoir started 6 of 8 while South Lenoir missed its first six shots, and a 3-pointer from Alainah Kornegay tied the game at 38 with 4:35 remaining.
Gralicia Jenkins responded for South Lenoir, hitting a pair of free throws on the other end. After Taylor scored inside to tie the game at 40, Jenkins scored again before finding Taniejah Mitchell for a basket inside the paint to go ahead 44-40 with 1:42 to play.
“We really had to stay poised,” Jenkins said. “We couldn’t get bigheaded, even though we had that big lead.”
The Hawks didn’t threaten from there and the Blue Devils finished the game at the line. South Lenoir would can 17 of 26 from the charity stripe while North Lenoir made just 5 of 16.
North Lenoir coach Howard Wooley said the team didn’t have the same tenacity and it cost them.
"We knew it was going to be a rivalry game and South Lenoir was going to play hard," Wooley said. "There's a lot going on as far as seeding for the ECC tournament next week, but regardless we didn't match their intensity."
SOUTH LENOIR 48, NORTH LENOIR 43
SL 10 13 14 11—48
NL 7 3 15 18—43
SOUTH LENOIR — Gralicia Jenkins 15, Taniejah Mitchell 11, Hall 7, Graham 7, Foster 4, Howard 2, Croom 2
NORTH LENOIR — Kanijah Taylor 15, Ashanti Lynch 12, McPhail 6, Jones 4, E. Lynch 3, Kornegay 3
Three-pointers: SL — Hall. NL — McPhail 2, A. Lynch, Kornegay.