Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

Takeaways from Day One of South Johnston Christmas Tournament

4 min read

FOUR OAKS — Day one of the South Johnston holiday tournament is done and here are my takeaways from a lovely day of basketball. Before I start, I want to thank South Johnston for their lovely hospitality!

South Johnston 54, Princeton 45

What a game! This is a game I really wanted last year, but this year’s version was an absolute WAR! South Johnston’s slow pace, execute the offense and play great team defense style of play worked against fast-paced Princeton. The 9-0 Trojans were able to get back and shut down all of the 6-2 Bulldogs’ fast break chances. In the half court, Princeton didn’t get very many open shots, and when they did — they missed them. The Bulldogs shot 34 percent from the field. Princeton head coach David Cobb said his team didn’t move without the ball well, which stalled their offense while also playing respect to the rotation and communication of South Johnston’s defense. South Johnston head coach Brody Massengill was happy with how his team played defensively, but acknowledged that Princeton seemed to be off and joked that he wouldn’t want to play them again. The Trojans have held all nine of their opponents under 50 points this season. For the Bulldogs, this was the first time they’ve been held under 50 since February 9, 2018.

South Johnston senior CJ Ray has undergone an evolution. The reigning 3-A Greater Neuse Player of the Year has made his living as a back to the basket big, but against Princeton he showed off his guard skills. Ray finished with 18 points and got them off of jumpers, crafty drives to the basket, offensive putbacks and was 3-of-3 from the free throw line. Massengill said that Ray heard from colleges that he would not be a post player in college and worked hard to lose 20-30 pounds and improve his perimeter game. Ray is averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds a game. Some may say I’m wrong, but I think Ray is a division one prospect and would be a steal for a division two team. Ray’s footwork, body control and ability to read a defender has transferred over and make him unstoppable for most guards to challenge him. If a division one team takes a chance on Ray, I think they would get a big reward. “The President”, as I call him, is a hard worker, plays hard, takes school seriously and I think he’s a great investment.

South Johnston as a whole, to me, may be better than last year’s 24-4 team. The Trojans’ team defense is suffocating and will muck most team’s game plans up. South on the offensive end has some great shooters in senior Thomas Dees and junior Dylan Bates, who combined to knock down six three-pointers. Juniors Jonathan Watts and Jeremiah McLean will also provide good hustle buckets. January 10, the Trojans will welcome in Clayton to open up 3-A Greater Neuse River Conference play — a game that will set the tone for the conference.

From Princeton’s standpoint, they played the worst offensively that I’ve seen them play in two years. They shot 34 percent from the field and had 19 turnovers. It was not pretty, but the silver lining is they only lost by nine despite the pour performance. Defensively, it was one of the better games I’ve seen them play. They produced 10 steals and three blocks as a team. This is good for the Bulldogs though, because Cobb wanted to make a tougher schedule this season to help their playoff chances. Princeton came into this game as seventh in the 1-A MaxPreps rankings, and even though they lost, this will boost the strength of schedule. If the Bulldogs run the table like I think they should, they should secure a top 4 seed in the 1-A East.

Princeton 41, South Johnston 36

Princeton (6-2) handled South Johnston (3-6) 41-35 to advance to the championship game on Saturday. The Bulldogs snapped a two-game skid while the Trojans lost their third straight. Princeton continues to struggle to find that second ball handler to take pressure off Meredith Wooten. Wooten finished with 29 points. South Johnston looks much improved from last season. Seniors McKinley Sills and Janay McDonald led the team in scoring with 18 and 12 points, respectively.

C.B. Aycock 62, Triton 51

C.B. Aycock (5-6) scored a season-high to beat Triton (4-5), 62-51. The Falcons played well at one of the faster paces that they’ve been forced to play this season. Senior Charles Walker II was impressive as he finished with a game-high 23 points. Walker showcased his ability to make shots from all over the floor. Senior Alijuan Moore also played well with contributing 14 points. The Falcons have a shot to get a really big win if they can take down South Johnston and get back to .500 before getting back into conference play.

Saturday’s Schedule

Princeton vs C.B. Aycock girls, 4:30 p.m. for the tournament championship

C.B. Aycock vs South Johnston, 6 p.m. for the tournament championship

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