Johnson provides lift for girls

Published 9:13 pm Wednesday, January 11, 2023

By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

Kenadi Gentry laid the foundation in the first half, Somer Johnson became the savior in the fourth quarter and the Davie varsity girls basketball team pulled out a defensive struggle over visiting Mt. Tabor on Jan. 3.

It was a fascinating 36-31 result because the War Eagles survived despite 21-percent shooting from the floor, because 36 points in a game had spelled defeat every time in the past 15 years. The War Eagles were averaging 50.6 points before hosting Tabor, and they had scored 50-plus in every win this season. On the flip side, they had lost 106 straight when scoring 36 or less. This was the first such win in 15 years, going back to a 36-23 win over North Rowan during the 2007-08 season. Kellie Brown carried Davie that day with 14 points.

But numbers from the past added up to nothing on this day. Davie missed 43 of 55 shot attempts, but it atoned by turning in another excellent defensive performance. But so did the Spartans, who achieved a five-point lead on three occasions.

Gentry carried Davie early. Her two 3-pointers provided a 6-2 lead, one of them coming from NBA range. She hit two of her first three shots, while her teammates were going 0 for 7. Gentry accounted for nine of Davie’s 15 points in the first half, which ended with Tabor ahead by two. She converted 3 of 5 field goals, or half of Davie’s makes.

“The refs let us play a lot more than what the girls were expecting, and I think it rattled us because of their physicality and their speed,” coach Lindsey Adams said. “It sped us up on offense, we weren’t able to get into a rhythm and we were missing a lot of easy shots.

“Kenadi saved us in the first half, and Somer saved us in the second half.”

The early offensive struggles set the tone of the game. Davie started 0 for 5 in the third quarter and fell behind 20-15, but Keelyn Oakes kept Davie within striking distance by nailing a 17-footer.

Tabor pushed its lead to 22-17, but Davie kept coming back. After Malayka Rankin hit a pair of free throws, Gentry got a steal. She passed to Johnson, who dished to Rankin, who drained a 15-foot shot.

Although Davie only made two field goals in the third, it was only down 22-21 heading into the fourth.

Davie found itself down by five again at 26-21. Again, it came roaring back. Johnson got a steal and found Gentry. Peyton Spaugh finished at the other end with a reverse layup. Johnson hit a driving bank shot. When Spaugh split a pair at the line, it was 26-26.

“I kept telling them: ‘Our shots are going to fall. You’re doing everything right. Just keep trusting the process. You are a better team,’” Adams said. “In the fourth quarter, I think they really believed that. Once we hit a few shots, that’s when our defense came alive.”

A Spaugh steal led to a basket by Gentry, who sank a turnaround hook to cut Tabor’s lead to 29-28. But Tabor scored quickly to regain a 31-28 lead.

Then came the game’s biggest moment. Spaugh threw a skip pass over Tabor’s zone. Rankin set a screen and Johnson caught the pass on the right wing. A defender rushed out, but it was too late to disrupt Johnson’s 3-point attempt. Although Davie had missed 11 straight 3s, although Johnson had not hit an outside shot all game, the senior had the confidence to fire because she’s delivered clutch shots the past two years. This was another timely bucket that tied the game at 31-31 with 2:10 on the clock. When it splashed, the bench erupted. Even injured Nadelie Jones jumped out of her seat, hopping up and down on one leg.

“We call that ‘Skip,’” Adams said. “That’s the same play we ran against West Forsyth last year when we beat them, when Somer hit the 3 to tie or go up. She sat a lot in the third quarter because her shots just weren’t falling. I think by sitting down in the third, she was able to see what the (Tabor) defense was doing, and when I put her back in in the fourth, she had a lot better reads. She was able to sit there and get a different perspective, and then she wanted to win the ballgame. Most teams don’t play a zone, and it only works against a 2-3 zone. It doesn’t work against a 1-3-1 or anything else, so it’s not something we can run every time down the court.”

Johnson’s triple triggered memories from past wins and ignited an 8-0 surge. The fullcourt press led to a Rankin steal. She was fouled and hit both free throws, giving Davie a 33-31 lead, its first advantage since 8-6. Tabor committed a turnover. Davie’s offense used clock before Johnson scored on a drive. On the next offensive possession, Davie was patient before Johnson decided to drive. She was fouled, hit one free throw and made it 36-31 with :33 left. Tabor was cooked when it was called for charging into Colamarino at :28. It was the third time Colamarino had taken a charge.

“Coming from West Forsyth, Lauren has always been a shot-blocker,” Adams said. “Coming here (as a junior) has been a different game plan for her, but she’s tough as nails. She’s playing on a hurt ankle right now – she has been for the past three weeks – so I was very pleased with the grit she showed, especially in the fourth quarter.”

Gentry (11 points) hit three 3s and mixed in six steals, four assists and three rebounds. Johnson had 10 points and three steals. Spaugh racked up seven points, nine steals, six rebounds and three assists while playing all 32 minutes. Rankin had six points and seven steals. Oakes had two points. Colamarino grabbed six rebounds and rejected three shots as Davie improved to 8-6 overall and 2-2 in the Central Piedmont Conference. It was Davie’s third straight win over Tabor (6-4, 1-3).

“Peyton’s points did not reflect what she was doing defensively,” Adams said. “She’s like a little warrior. She gets after it. Nothing really fazes her and she keeps playing hard.”