By RUDY COGGINS
DUDLEY - Aleesha Boyette said the main difference between Southern Wayne and Kinston, two teams that thrive on ball-hawking defense, in the second half boiled down to…well…defense.
“Coach [Ricky Lofton] said we had to turn up our defense,” the senior said.
And the Saints were hungry, too.
Jamaiya Bass just missed a double-double - 24 points, nine rebounds - as Southern Wayne stormed from behind to defeat Kinston, 62-53. The Saints (6-6 overall) halted a three-game skid and bolstered their chances of advancing to the postseason.
Down 24-19 at the break, SW immediately took charge.
The Saints sped up the tempo in their 1-2-1-1 press and capitalized on a couple of quick turnovers. Boyette and Bass each drained a 3-pointer in transition to close the gap to 26-25.
Kinston attempted to stretch its lead until Bass wished a three and Ty’Lisha Maye connected on two free throws.
SW trailed 31-30.
Bass and Boyette shared the ball-handling duties since Kinston (9-3) elected to double-team Maye throughout the second half. The ploy didn’t bother the seasoned veterans, who handled the pressure with ease and continued to attack the basket.
Katie Toler’s soft jumper off Maye’s assist gave the Saints their first lead, 32-31. Toler would later sink back-to-back 3s in front of the SW bench - just part of a 26-point, third-quarter outburst.
“We started playing together as a team,” Bass said. “We had to believe in each other, we had to calm down moving the ball and make good choices. Other members of the team stepped up.
“[Katie’s shots] boosted our morale, picked up our energy so much.”
The Saints led 45-36 going into the fourth.
Boyette’s basket with 2:33 left in regulation gave Southern Wayne its biggest advantage, 57-43. The Vikings, the reigning Eastern Carolina 2A champions, could get no closer.
Boyette and Maye (eight steals) posted 11 and 10 points, respectively. Toler ended up with nine points, while JaMaya Leach snared six rebounds.
The Saints logged 13 assists on 20 made field goals as a taem.
“A really huge win,” Bass said.