SEVEN SPRINGS - TJ Johnson adjusted his face covering, bent over and stretched.
An ever-so-slight moan exited his lips.
It was an appropriate expression that personified a frustrating outing for him and his Spring Creek teammates in “The Swamp” on Thursday evening.
The Gators couldn’t recover from a slow offensive start and suffered a 69-36 loss to East Central 2A Conference rival Midway.
“We won’t ready to play, you could tell in warm-ups,” said new SC head coach Jeff Davis. “There’s no excuse. After we calmed down, it was a very even game. Us and them, it should be a competitive game.”
This meeting wasn’t.
Midway created some quick turnovers out of its 1-2-2 zone press and seized a 9-0 lead barely three minutes into the opening quarter.
Kaden Jones converted Spring Creek’s first basket - an uncontested driving layup from the right side. Before his score, the Gators misfired on their previous five field-goal attempts and committed two turnovers, which resulted in Midway points.
“[The early start] really pivotal for us,” said Midway head coach Aaron Lane. “We know what we can achieve as a team. We wanted to come in tonight, put everything we’ve done together the last two games and start off strong.
“We talked that we need to set the tone early, get the ball in the open court a little bit, shoot it and get the ball to the post.”
The Raiders led 25-3 after one quarter.
Jones knocked down his second field goal off of an assist from Nic Jones with 4:35 left before halftime. SC trailed 34-5.
“I told them before the game they’re going to come out and half-court trap you, and we shouldn’t have any problem with that…just fell apart,” said Davis, whose team saw the same defense against North Johnston and ECC power Wallace-Rose Hill.
“It’s depressing. I want to climb under the bleachers.”
Midway forced 17 turnovers and collected 11 steals. The Raiders claimed their third straight win the series and fifth overall in 20 meetings since 2005.
Kaden Jones emerged as the Gators’ top scorer with 10 points. Jamil Burrill provided seven points and eight rebounds. Lucas Barfield (five points) and Johnson (four points) cleared the glass with five rebounds apiece.
Spring Creek (0-4 overall, 0-3 ECC) visits Goldsboro on Tuesday and is the guest of James Kenan on Thursday.