Southern boys, girls sweep invitational titles for 1st year coaches
Southern High first-year coaches Kendrick Hall and Monique Fearrington watched as their boys and girls teams cut down the nets for the first time Saturday, then virtually echoed each other in saying “We’ve come a long way.”
In the Vision Sporting Goods Holiday Invitational title games at Cary Academy, the Southern boys’ team pressed Durham Academy for a 57-36 victory. The Southern girls broke open a close game late to beat previously unbeaten Fayetteville Christian 68-50.
Southern’s Amari Hamilton was named boys’ bracket most valuable player and was joined on the all-tournament team by teammate Isiah Maurice and Durham Academy star Alston Thompson.
Southern’s Ariana Tillman was the girls’ bracket MVP and was joined on the all-tournament team by teammate Régene Watson.
Hall, who made his varsity coaching debut with the Southern girls’ team a year ago and moved to the boys’ bench this year, has had to rebuild the program after an extensive roster turnover from a disappointing 2011-12 program.
Hall’s senior-dominated girls’ program last year was the surprise team in the PAC-6, finishing third. But he handed over a roster from incoming middle school coach Monique Fearrington that also lost most of its top talent.
“I feel great,” Fearrington said after Saturday’s title win that lifted Southern to 7-5. “We’ve come a long way. We’ve got a new coach, we’re bonding together as one. I can see a change. I can see a difference.”
Like Fearrington, Hall was beaming after Southern’s third win in as many days improved the boys’ team record to 5-6.
“It’s something good for the boys,” he said. “They’ve been working so hard, buying in, that having something positive like this happen is just great for them. The thing I see is we’re coming together as a whole. That’s what it’s all about.”
The bottom line is the Spartan boys and girls both lived up to their own expectations, playing hard, playing together and ravaging a field dominated by private schools.
Southern’s boys beat The Elon School 70-29, Norfolk (Va.) Christian Academy 60-34 and Durham Academy. The girls’ beat Durham Academy 55-28 and Cary Christian 74-48 before stopping 13-0 Fayetteville Christian.
Spartans put defense first
Southern challenged Durham Academy to prove it could shoot in the boys’ nightcap. The Spartans opened in a zone with 6-7 center Maurice clamping down on 6-6 DA sophomore Thompson.
The move worked as Southern led 14-12 after the first period thanks to 3-pointers by Marvin Tillman and Shamiek Wilson. Thompson looked like he was going to be a problem for the Spartans as he scored eight of DA’s 12.
But Southern ditched the zone in the second quarter and began pressing all over the floor. The Spartans superior quickness and depth pushed DA into eight turnovers in the period (12 for the half) and gave Southern a 28-19 lead at the half.
“We’ve been starting games with the zone to get our (defensive) rotations down,” Hall said later. “Once we got that done, we went to man pressure.”
The pressure kept creating turnovers — six more in the third quarter, 21 for the game — and the Cavaliers’ inability to hit a shot from the field or the free throw line (4-of-15 from the line in the second half) was the difference.
“We didn’t shoot the ball,” DA coach Tim McKenna said. “ We have to make shots against that 3-2 pressure. It’s tough when you’re going against a team as athletic as they are.”
The Spartans held the Cavs to four points in the third quarter, as they built the lead to as many as 19 points and the lead grew to 55-26 on a layup by Jerrick Richmond with about four minutes left in the game.
DA made the score more respectable with a 10-2 run in the final 3:41 against Southern’s reserves.
Thompson posted game highs of 17 points and 15 rebounds. Tyran Cameron and Wilson each scored 10 to lead Southern, which had 10 players score at least two points.
Richmond had six boards to lead Southern, which lost the rebounding battle 46-37.
Remarkably, Hamilton scored only five points in the finale but was named MVP. Hall credited the award to Hamilton’s defense and all-around game. Hall also was pleased with the play of Maurice, a junior who is rapidly becoming a low-post presence, particularly on defense.
Southern girls apply pressure
Defensive pressure also was the key to the Southern girls’ title. A strong third quarter by Fayetteville Christian cut Southern’s eight-point (32-24) halftime lead to four (48-44) as the clock turned to the fourth period.
Fayetteville Christian actually led a couple of times late in the third before Southern scored on a steals and runouts to get back in front.
But it was all Southern in the fourth period, as the Spartans outscored Fayetteville Christian 20-6.
FCS coach Don Gardner was visibly upset as the clock was ticking down and his team, trailing by 11, looked like it had nothing left against Southern’s defense.
“They’re athletic,” Gardner said of Southern. “They put pressure on us and forced us to turn the ball over more than normal.”
Boys’ Championship Game
Southern 57, DA 36
SOUTHERN — Vince Phillips 4, Tyran Cameron 10, Christian Joy 2, Shamiek Wilson 10, Marvin Tillman 4, Aaron Bailey 4, Javon Riley 5, Isiah Maurice 6, Amari Hamilton 5, Jerrick Richmond 7.
DURHAM ACADEMY — Slater Daniels 6, Jack Clayton 4, Khari Williams 3, Nick Sullivan 1, Alston Thompson 17, Pryce Sinclair 5.
3-point FG—S 6 (Wilson 3, Tillman, Cameron, Hamilton), DA 2 (Thompson, Sinclair). Blocked shots—S 7 (Tillman 3, Maurice 2, Terrance Bradsher, Riley), DA 3 (Thompson 2, Chris Brasier 1). Assists—S 8 (Hamilton 3), DA 7 (Cam Brown 4). Steals—S 7 (Tillman 2, Maurice 2), DA 5 (Thompson 2). Rebounds—S 37 (Richmond 6), DA 46 (Thompson 15). Turnovers—S 12 (Maurice 4), DA 21 (Sam Lane 6).
Records—Durham Academy 10-4, Southern 5-6.
Girls’ Championship Game
Southern 68, Fayetteville Christian 50
SOUTHERN — Alexis Joyner 10, Sydni Dobson 20, Ariana Tillman 13, Regene Watson 8, Addis Lemons, Brianna Staton 10, Karen Burford 2.
FAYETTEVILLE CHRISTIAN — Shamaija Battle 7, Abigail Bullock 9, Erin Stanley 2, Gabrielle Bethel 14, Jayla Bryant 15, Ragga Kristendottier 2.
Records—Southern 7-5, Fayetteville Christian 13-1.