CLAYTON — Even though the Cleveland, Princeton and West Johnston girls basketball teams achieved different results in the Cleveland Classic basketball tournament, all three squads used the opportunity to continue to build with the heart of conference play fast approaching.
For West Johnston, a pair of wins over Princeton and Cleveland left the Wildcats with an 8-3 record entering the new year.
The Wildcats were able to construct second half leads in both contests enabling them to hold the ball out top, milking precious seconds of the clock and forcing the Bulldogs and Rams both to foul and send them to the line.
“We’ve done some good things,” noted West coach Bill Pepicello, whose team renews play in the Greater Neuse River Conference against East Wake, Southeast Raleigh and Clayton. “Now we’re going to go into league play and it’s just going to get a lot harder.”
Jarmeia Holder led West Johnston 32 points (including 21 in the Wildcats’ 49-36 win over rival Cleveland) in the two games and was joined by teammates Shay King and Christian Sanders on the all tournament team.
The Wildcats have already matched their season high in wins from the 2011-2012 season.
A young Princeton team, from the Carolina 1A Conference, used the opportunity to gain some much-needed experience against a pair of 4A squads from the GNRC.
Despite a monster game from Savanna Massengill (31 points and 14 rebounds), the Bulldogs fell to West Johnston but dictated the style of play in a 39-26 win over Rolesville that allowed coach Marty Gurganus to go to his bench.
“It was good to get everybody in and get some of the younger girls the chance to play,” Gurganus said. “I would have loved to win two but to go 1-1 was important. Overall, what we experienced yesterday and today is definitely going to help us when we start back in conference play again next week.”
Massengill and Tori Paul were named to the all tournament team for the Bulldogs.
Although Cleveland dropped both games in the tournament, the Rams continued to show growth and maturity after a 0-5 start to begin the season.
Cleveland played hard against Rosewood and West Johnston only to have periodic stretches of poor offensive execution derail their chance to grab a victory.
“We just made a few mistakes that we’ve got to get shored up,” Cleveland coach Chris Danehower said. “We’ve seen the kids get better at some things but there’s still a lot of things to work on so we’ve got some time to do that before we get back in our conference play.”
Brittany Preston, who was named to the all-tournament team, poured in 14 points in the defeat against West Johnston while Skyler Allen posted back-to-back nine-point performances.