02/26/12 — Goldsboro girls dispatch East Columbus

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Goldsboro girls dispatch East Columbus

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 26, 2012 1:52 AM

Goldsboro won the battle of wills Saturday afternoon.

The Cougars turned up the defensive pressure early, quickly put points on the board and earned a return trip to the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A eastern regional.

Alexus Myles delivered a game-high 22 points and Brandy Johnson shut down the Gators' best athlete in a 64-41 thrashing of East Columbus on inside Norvell T. Lee Gymnasium. The No. 6-ranked Cougars face No. 1-ranked Lakewood on Thursday at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville.

A tip-off time has not been determined.

"They played aggressive, together, played team ball today and it showed on the floor," second-year GHS head coach LaTina Bullock said. "We knew we had to stop their key players and get them out of what they were used to doing (on offense) with our defense, and we knew our offense would come.

"I'm proud of them. I'm just at a loss for words."

Johnson shadowed East Columbus senior KJ Johnston in a box-and-one scheme from the opening tip. The Cougar junior allowed the senior guard to attempt only one field goal -- which she missed -- during the first 3 1/2 quarters.

Johnson had just two first-quarter free throws on her line score by halftime. She converted two fourth-quarter field goals when the outcome had all but been decided and Bullock had called upon her bench players to polish off the Cougars' 16th consecutive win.

"We knew number 5 (Johnston) was their main dribbler, who created all their offense and 14 (Brittany Hall) was their shooter," Johnson said. "We used the box-and-one to shut down the perimeter and take away their main creator on offense.

"I had to take away her cross-over (dribble) and bust my butt to stay in front of her (defensively). I had to move my feet."

Each team converted their first offensive possession before Goldsboro reeled off 11 of the next 13 points. Johnson and senior point guard Shatoria Exum, who held Hall to one point, picked the Gators for three steals which led to transition baskets.

Johnson's bank shot off her own steal, Talaya Lassiter's 3-pointer from the deep left corner and Wallace's kiss off the glass pushed the advantage to 18-6 just 5 1/2 minutes into the game. The Gators closed to within 18-10 on baskets from 6-foot sophomore center Lauren Jenkins and guard Kayla Brown, but could get no closer.

Goldsboro continued to flourish offensively as Lassiter and Johnson constantly fed passes to Myles and Kasheika Wallace (20 points, 11 rebounds) for easy baskets over East Columbus' zone defense. Exum swished a shot while falling backwards to give the Cougars a 38-17 cushion at halftime.

The Gators (20-5) outscored the Cougars in the third quarter, but couldn't get enough defensive stops. Wallace's offensive putback ignited an 18-4 run that squelched any further comeback.

"We talked to each other, made sure that we knew everything that was going on, remind each other of the cutters, talked on offense and helped each other on defense," said Johnson, who finished with eight points, six steals, five assists, five rebounds and two blocked shots.

"We just played as a family."