01/19/05 — Spring Creek wins first-place battle at N. Johnston

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Spring Creek wins first-place battle at N. Johnston

By Neil Fuller
Published in Sports on January 19, 2005 2:01 PM

KENLY - It's been 39 years since the North Johnston men's basketball team last claimed a conference championship. Spring Creek did its best Tuesday night to ensure that the Panthers will have to wait at least one more season for that drought to end.

Senior guard Josh Bishop scored on a driving layup with 7.5 seconds remaining to lift the Gators to a 75-73 double-overtime win in a battle for first place in the Class 1-A Carolina Conference.

"At the beginning of the season, I picked North Johnston to be one of the top teams in the conference," Spring Creek coach Sonny Kilpatrick said. "I knew what a battle this was going to be coming in. Whatever team had possession last was going to win this one."

The Gators (10-4 overall, 5-1 Carolina Conference) had to overcome a game-high 25 points from senior guard Jake Lomonaco -- whose third 3 of the night gave the Panthers (10-5, 4-2) a 71-70 lead in the second OT -- and a 13-point first-half deficit.

First-year North Johnston coach Derrick Johnson believes the emotional loss was further proof of how close his program is to becoming a contender each season.

"I think we're very capable of finishing on top of the conference," Johnson said. "It's just a matter of getting the team to play the way it is capable of playing each time out. We're starting to make improvements on the defensive end, which is where we need to improve in order to win."

Earlier in the night, the conference-leading North Johnston women cruised to a 55-23 win as senior center Helen Moore led all scorers with 18 points to pass the 1,500-point mark in her prep career.

Troia Morgan hit two 3-pointers, and Brittanni Billups scored six second-quarter points as Spring Creek (1-13, 0-6) trailed 33-15 at halftime.

North Johnston (11-4, 6-0) limited the Lady Gators to five second-half field goals to easily keep its hold on first place.

"I hope we can take this as a learning experience," Spring Creek coach Amanda Ramjford said. "We kind of beat ourselves tonight. We should've come in here with a stronger attitude. When we get down by 10 or 15, we just sort of hang our heads."

Morgan finished with a team-high 10 points.

In the men's game, Spring Creek lost its leading scorer on the night, Chris Wright (23 points), with 6.9 seconds left in regulation.

But Bishop and Cliff Wilson stepped up to combine for 15 points in the extra periods.

Mychael King had 13 points and seven rebounds before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.

"With two of my best players sitting on the bench (after fouling out), I wouldn't have given you a nickel for our chances heading into overtime," Kilpatrick said. "But we stayed focused and played hard.

"We can be a bit cocky knowing that we're in first place, but a win like this builds character."

Willie Smith had 15 points for North Johnston, and Brandon Sanders and Willie Pearce added 14 each.