Southern Wayne small forward Demetric Wright

Southern Wayne small forward Demetric Wright (22) drives to the hoop during last year’s FCA Winter Classic.

When Coastal Carolina beat Southern Wayne on Wednesday evening, Southern Wayne Coach Dwight Smith was frustrated by his team’s lack of execution down the stretch.

On Thursday night against South Lenoir, Southern Wayne’s late-game execution was excellent as the Saints defeated the Blue Devils by a score of 78-73.

In the first half, the Saints had trouble containing South Lenoir’s starting guards Rico Freeman and Jensen Barwick, who combined for 29 points. Freeman had scored 19 points while Jensen added 11 points.

Defensively, the Blue Devils did a great job in the first half of taking Southern Wayne out of its comfort zone.

“I kept telling those guys they’re not going to give up,” Smith said after the game. “They were making us turn the ball over, but we were being careless with the ball and we have to continue to be focused when we get on the court.”

Holding onto a slim one-point halftime lead, 29-28, the Saints came out in the second half and slowly, but surely, took over control of the game.

With six minutes left in the game, South Lenoir sent Saints forward Mikhail Pocknett to the free throw line, and Pocknett made the Blue Devils pay by sinking both of his free throws, which gave the Saints the lead for good. Pocknett finished with 18 points, including going 3-4 from the stripe in the fourth quarter.

Then with just under two minutes remaining, Demetric Wright scored four straight points to give Southern Wayne an insurmountable 72-66 lead.

It was a perfect ending for coach Smith, who talked about the challenges his team overcame during the game.

“We slowed it down in the second half, and the guys started doing what we were telling them to do,” Smith said. “We started attacking and letting our bigs finish.”

Wright finished the night with 18 points, running a Saints offense that really picked up steam in the second half. Wright exploded for 10 points in the fourth quarter.

Coach Smith kept his players in the locker room for a long time after the game, talking to them about the need to stay focused through the entire game.

“We just have to play a complete game,” Smith said. “Normally we would quit, but I was proud of them when they didn’t quit. The way we played tonight is the way we have to finish games.”