WENDELL -- When North Johnston girls basketball coach Jay Poole walked into the locker room following his team’s dramatic 37-34 win over Corinth Holders Tuesday, he was greeted with a collective message from his players.
“They were like ‘Coach that’s two nights in a row,’” Poole said with a laugh. The Panthers escaped with a two-point win over Franklinton on Monday and the narrow wins helped maintain their second place position in the Northern Carolina 2A Conference with an 8-1 mark and five games left to play.
While the Panthers ready themselves to make a postseason push, Corinth Holders is holding onto hope that they can get into the playoffs. The Pirates are 3-5 in conference play with five games remaining – all of them in-conference and four of them on the road.
“We have a shot still. We have to take care of business in these last five games,” Corinth Holders coach Brandy Smith said. “We have a good position to finish in that top three or four spot right now.”
Neither team needed to wait until the postseason for some drama however as there was plenty of that on display Tuesday night. The Pirates trailed by as many as 12 points in the third quarter and by 10 heading into the fourth but held visiting North Johnston without a field goal in the final period.
While stymieing the Panthers’ offense, Corinth Holders chipped away at the lead and a pair of Morgan Hester free throws brought the Pirates within one point at 33-32 with 45 seconds to play. The Pirates then forced an errant North Johnston pass into the hands of Cyarra Pierson, who took it in from halfcourt for a go-ahead layup with 25 seconds left.
Needing to foul to regain possession, Corinth Holders sent Chandler Hines to the free throw line with 17 seconds left and Hines calmly sank both shots to regain the lead at 35-34. After a timeout, a set play resulted in a turnover for the Pirates and Hines again converted a pair of free throws with three seconds left.
The Panthers had defeated Corinth Holders by nine points in their first meeting this season.
“I knew this was going to be tough. It’s usually that second go-round in conference (play),” Poole said. “Hopefully it can only help us down the road. A lot of our games are tightly contested games and hopefully that will payoff down the road.”
Corinth Holders led 20-17 early in the third quarter but the Panthers ripped off a 15-0 run to swing a 12-point lead in their favor before the momentum shifted back to the Pirates in the fourth quarter.
Pierson led the Pirates with 12 points while Hines dropped in 18 for North Johnston.
“I’ve got to give it to the girls; they fought hard and they knew the circumstances,” Smith said. “We’ve been trying to rally everyone together and make a big push and scare a couple of people a little bit.”