WENDELL — Smithfield-Selma’s boys basketball team used its best defensive effort of the season to avenge its only loss, defeating Corinth Holders 66-51 on Friday night.
The Spartans (5-1) were beaten at home by Corinth Holders (2-1) last Friday, but held the Pirates to six second-quarter points and seven points in the third period to take charge in the game.
“That is the best defensive game I’ve seen at SSS in years,” Spartans coach James Robinson said. “[Corinth Holders] is a good offensive team.”
And unlike a week ago, the Spartans also took better shots on offense, working the ball inside to its taller front line for high-percentage attempts.
“Last time we played them, we threw the ball inside five times the entire game,” Robinson said. “We have just harped on that. It has been a focus in practice. Tonight, we did a much better job of understanding when it was there, being patient and taking advantage of a size advantage.
“But to hold a good team down like that until the last few minutes when they put on a spurt on is a good thing to see.”
Zay Best, a 6-foot-3 forward, led the Spartans with 20 points and Jeremiah David had 13.
Best was on the receiving end of passes inside on numerous occasions and also grabbed several offensive rebounds and scored.
Down by 18 points with 3:50 left, Corinth Holders went on a run to trim the margin to 59-48 with 1:24 left.
The Pirates scored nearly as many points (25) in the final period as they had in the first three quarters combined (26).
“We didn’t do the things we were supposed to do,” Corinth Holders coach Chris Davis said. “It’s easy to play defense against a team not running an offense. No screens were being set, no quick movements. If you are not going as hard as you can go, it makes the other team look really good.
“That’s what happened tonight. We did not give the kind of effort we had to give.”
Davis, whose 2A team won 20 games last year and was runner-up in the Northern Carolina Conference, challenged his team during a fourth-quarter timeout.
“I called a timeout with 3:56 left and said, ‘I hope you are satisfied with what the result is,’ ” Davis said. “I told them for at least three minutes and 50 seconds, let’s try as hard as we can.”
While the strong front-line play of the 4A Spartans was a big factor in the victory, Robinson credited 5-foot-7 senior point guard Mike Williams with a big effort.
“Mike is the heart and soul of this team,” Robinson said. “He was giving up about eight inches on [Corinth Holder’s] Kenny Collins. We know if Kenny gets his feet set, it’s going to be trouble for us.”
Williams stuck with Collins the entire game, holding the 6-foot-2 senior to eight points. Klilah Cox led Corinth Holders with 11 points and Khalil Larry had 10.
“I just try to pay attention, be smart and limit my turnovers,” Williams said. “I know my role on the team is not scoring. I need to get the ball to the scorers. My role is defense.
“First and foremost, I want to be first on defense.”
Taking a cue from Williams, the Spartans did the job on the defensive end. And avenged their only loss of the season.