SMITHFIELD — Corinth Holders boys basketball team started its 2012-13 basketball season – its first with a senior class – with a pair of baskets on well-developed backdoor cuts that led to layups. The Pirates then finished off their opening night debut on the road against Smithfield-Selma with a stellar defensive stretch.
It was that mix of offensive pace-setting and timely defensive work that gave Corinth Holders a 60-49 victory over the previously unbeaten Spartans Friday night.
The Pirates darted out to a 10-point first-half lead and led by as many as 12 in the second half before Smithfield-Selma pulled within 49-45 with the help of a pair of 3-pointers from Seth Turner and buckets by Montrel Shepherd.
That’s when Corinth Holders went to work on defense, holding Turner, who came alive after twisting an ankle on a drive in the third quarter, then taking a hard fall while trying to block a shot, scoreless the rest of the way.
“Before the game we talked about how we had to know where 30 (Turner) was all of the time,” said Pirates coach Chris Davis. “We lost track of him a couple of times and he got them right back in the game.”
“We had some good and bad on defense in the second half. We did a really good job on our switches and recovery and limiting the easy stuff they got. But there were a few times we had a chance to take a charge but we didn’t do that. We did the hard part of defense but we didn’t do the easy part. Still, I was pretty impressed with our first-night effort.”
Shepherd scored on a driving layup for SSS to get within 49-45 with 3:28 to play and the Spartans got the ball right back after a Corinth Holders turnover. But the Pirates’ Klilah Cox stepped in front of a SSS pass and drove to the basket, dropping in a spinning layup to push the lead back to six points.
Cox finished with a game-high 20 points, including a six-for-six effort at the free throw line. Walden added 15 points.
“We got the lead to four and had the ball but we just made a bonehead pass that led to a layup for them,” said SSS coach James Robinson. “We had the momentum at that point and it all just stopped for us there.
“Corinth Holders is a solid 2A team that’s been playing together for three years now,” Robinson said. “We’re still getting used to playing with each other. We’ve got four transfers and we’ve just got to figure out where our pieces go. And our players have to start to understand their roles better.”
The Spartans dealt with a little more lineup juggling than normal.
Junior standout Tez Leach tried to play for Smithfield-Selma even though he has been fighting flu-like symptoms most of the week. He started the game but took himself out after three minutes, then spent the second half at the end of the Spartan bench wearing a toboggan and a fleece jacket, trying to fight off the chills.
Rob Franklin, a senior guard, had 15 to pace SSS. Turner had nine of his 11 points in the second half.
The Spartans’ efforts to rally in the second half were toughened by Corinth Holders’ offense at times, which spread the floor to take time off of the clock and get higher percentage shots.
“It’s been drilled into us that we’re going to dictate the pace as much as possible,” Davis said. “If we want to get up the floor and can get a quick, high-percentage shot, we want to do that as much as possible. But when you take a quick shot that’s not a good shot, we’ve let our opponent dictate the pace.”