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SWE girls back on track, boys fall to Farmville Central

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Farmville Central’s Kristen Barett, left, and SouthWest Edgecombe’s Alonee Smallwood battle for the rebound Friday at SouthWest Edgecombe in Pinetops.

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By PATRICK MASON
Sports Writer

Saturday, February 3, 2018

PINETOPS — Just five points have separated the Farmville Central and SouthWest Edgecombe girls’ basketball teams over two games this season.

The Cougars found ways to win both.

SouthWest Edgecombe started strong out of halftime to pull away for a 56-53 win in an Eastern Plains Conference game on Friday. The Cougars also won at the Jaguars on Jan. 12 by a two-point margin.

“Their aggressiveness and hustle makes them tough,” SWE guard Bailey Davis said of the Jaguars. “You have to stay on every loose ball and every pass because you can count on them coming after it.”

Davis and her outside shooting was the engine for the Cougars (12-6, 5-3). The sophomore finished with a game-high 19 points, including a trio of 3-pointers. While Davis delivered the daggers, punctuating a second-quarter run with back-to-back 3s, teammate Shayla Ellis went to work in the paint.

Ellis, the team’s leading scorer, recorded a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Ellis commands a lot of defensive attention, highlighted by the Jaguars selling out to defend her under the basket.

This gave space for Davis to score points in bunches.

“We have (Ellis) down there who can score and can kick it out,” Davis said. “With her doing what she does, we have a lot of options on offense. She can go up, or we can kick it out to a shooter, or pass it around and restart.

“It’s nice to have a good inside player like that that keeps going and keeps us going, too.”

The Cougars have played well this season in stretches, like the seven-game winning streak that lasted all of December and into January. SWE hasn’t won consecutive games since, but this win has the team feeling positive.

“It’s starting to feel good again, especially when we start winning,” Davis said. “We’re getting back into a flow and gaining confidence. We played with a lot of confidence tonight, and we hope that will continue.”

Boys

Farmville Central 74

SouthWest Edgecombe 52

Players from Farmville Central danced on the court following its 22-point win over host SouthWest Edgecombe on Friday. Cougars coach Shelton Langley and his players watched, and vowed to remember.

Langley hopes his team can use that as fuel for a possible rematch down the road in the Eastern Plains Conference tournament. But for now, the Cougars, fresh off snapping an eight-game losing streak, will have to draw on the positives if they hope to compete against the conference leaders down the road.

And there were plenty. SWE (5-13, 1-7) moved the ball well early in the game, leading to prime scoring chances. Point guard Savion Staton dished three assists in the opening quarter, all to Delonte Cobb.

Matthew Jones made a jumper and Shy Dunn added a pair of baskets to finish 6 of 6 from the floor for 13 points. It was about a good a quarter as Langley could have hoped for to open the game against a Jaguars team with a roster full of scorers.

“We played in spurts tonight,” said Jones, whose 10 points were tied for a team high with Keishon Porter. “We played with them, and better than them in stretches, then at times we fell below the standard and didn’t quite match up with them.”

Farmville Central (15-3, 8-0) wasn’t held at bay for long, and its offensive approach of firing a barrage of shots toward the basket proved to be the winning formula.

The Jaguars shot 45 percent from the floor, making 29 of their 65 attempts. SouthWest Edgecombe shot 47 percent (23 of 49), but couldn’t keep up. On Jan. 12, the last time these teams met, the Jaguars earned a 22-point win, despite being held to just three 3-pointers while dealing with the Cougars’ zone defense.

So on Friday, Langley opted to run that same zone early on, and with that decision came another decision to start Jones, a 6-foot-7 senior with just several starts to his name. The senior gave the Cougars a response to Farmville Central’s size advantage, and Jones’ length helped to give the Cougars an advantage under the basket.

This time, however, the Jaguars shot SWE out of its zone with seven 3s, including four in the first half. And while the game plan unraveled, Jones emerged as a capable player.

“He’s our biggest guy,” Langley said of Jones. “As the game progressed, my assistant coach and I were talking about how he’s finding open spots, making those shots, and doing a better job of grabbing boards instead of tipping the ball. He had a good game.”

Jones recorded his first double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds while going a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor. Most of his baskets came on mid-range jumpers, displaying a touch that he honed over the past year.

“It’s something I put a lot of time into,” Jones said. “I knew I had step up today. Coach called my name and is giving me the opportunity to show myself, and I wanted to take full advantage of it.”

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