WENDELL -- Corinth Holders head coach Chris Davis called it the “dog days of the season.”
“It’s where the practices get longer and the games get shorter,” Davis said following the Pirates’ 58-49 home victory over conference rival North Johnston on Tuesday. It was the second game in as many nights and the second of four games during a nine-day stretch as Corinth Holders readies for the postseason.
Coming off a Monday night loss at Bunn – the Pirates’ first Northern Carolina 2A Conference defeat – Tuesday’s win wasn’t quite the bounce back Davis was hoping for. The Panthers (4-5 NCC), who fell to Corinth Holders by 31 points in the team’s first meeting, snuck in a brief second-half lead on the Pirates Tuesday before Corinth Holders pulled away on the strength of a 20-4 run.
“We didn’t play as well as we needed to play,” Davis said. “We needed to bounce back a little stronger than what we bounced back. Are there lessons to be learned out of the win? Yeah.
“But I would’ve loved to have learned those lessons with the loss (Monday) night and shown it here a little bit more tonight.”
The Pirates (8-1 NCC) jumped to a 7-0 lead and all signs pointed to a Pirate win going away but North Johnston pieced together an 11-2 run to end the first half and scored the first bucket of the third quarter to grab a 27-26 lead.
Corinth Holders answered by scoring the next 10 points and 20 of the next 24 to carry a commanding lead into the fourth quarter. The Panthers brought the deficit back to single digits only in the waning minute.
“We had some good looks and we missed and then we gave up some offensive rebounds. We didn’t give up any offensive rebound points in the first half, which I thought was important because they’re a lot bigger and more athletic than we are,” North Johnston coach Derrick Johnson said. “I was proud of the fact that we came back and fought and didn’t stop playing. Even when they got a double-digit lead we didn’t stop playing. “
Carlyle Stephens led the Panthers with 16 points while Bailey Lail added 13.
With 5:48 left in the third quarter, Corinth Holders’ Kenneth Collins went to the free throw line and notched his 1,000th career point, becoming the first player in school history to reach the milestone. The senior finished with a game-high 27 points.
“It’s exciting but I was ready for it to be over with because we’ve got bigger things to accomplish,” Collins said. “Last year I realized that if I kept this up I could get there but I really didn’t focus on it much. I didn’t really focus on it until the last three or four games.”
Collins has other things to focus on now. Five games remain in the regular season and the Pirates defeated their next four opponents – Warren County, Northwest Halifax, Franklinton and Roanoke Rapids – by just a combined 22 points in the first meetings. Three of those games will be on the road.
“We’ve really got to pick it up on the defensive end of the floor,” Collins said. “When you step out onto the court, there’s no slacking. We want to make that run, that’s what we’re looking for. We’re ring-chasers.”