KENLY — The North Johnston girls basketball team started out the new year in much the same way it finished 2012: winning.
The Panthers (8-2 overall, 2-0 conference) rode the hot outside shooting from Chandler Hines to pull away from Corinth Holders for a 34-25 Northern Carolina 2A Conference victory.
Hines connected on three of four shots behind the 3-point line in the second quarter to extend North Johnston’s one-point lead after the opening quarter to seven points by halftime.
“That was big because if Chandler can get hot like that, that spreads the zone out and only opens up things for others more,” North Johnston coach Jay Poole said. “That was huge for us in the second quarter.”
Despite struggling on the offensive side for much of the night, the Pirates found themselves very much in the game thanks to the solid interior play of Kris Neal.
Neal led Corinth Holders with 14 points and 10 rebounds to keep the Pirates within striking distance.
But after putting up nine points in the first quarter, Corinth Holders managed just four buckets combined in the second and third quarters.
“Sometimes it just looks like a lack of intensity or a lack of fire or just that oomph,” Corinth Holders coach Brandy Smith said of her team’s offensive woes. “When you call your timeouts and you look up and see you’re only down by eight or ten points but it feels like you’re down by 50, I wish some fire could just get under and carry us over.”
The Panthers continued to add to their lead in the second half as North Johnston’s Tangela Williams turned offense to defense three times going the length of the court for easy transition baskets after stealing the ball on the defensive end.
The Panthers stretched the lead to 11 points at the beginning of the fourth quarter before the Pirates rallied to cut the lead to 30-25 after a pair of Kris Neal lay-ups and jumpers from Cyarra Pierson and Holly Price.
“I think Corinth Holders did a good job hanging in there and they just would never go away tonight,” Poole said of the Pirates. “They just came back and plugged away.”
Corinth Holders (4-7, 1-2) would draw no closer however as the Pirates cooled off down the stretch and Hines finished off the visitors with a pair of buckets in the final minute.
“When you see you’re getting stops on defense and then you see on the offensive side that there are opportunities that worked for you before, we need to keep going back to it again instead of making the same mistakes,” Smith said of her team’s offensive execution down the stretch.
Hines finished the game with 16 points, while Williams added eight points for the Panthers.