North got an impressive first half from freshman Jackie Johnson, but needed a solid boost from senior Peyton Hatter to hold on for a 57-53 City League boys basketball victory Tuesday night over visiting East.
The lightning-quick Johnson scored 11 of his 23 points in the first quarter, pushing the Redskins (2-0, 2-0 City League) to a 34-23 halftime lead.
But North suddenly went dry after halftime, and needed seven crucial fourth-quarter points from the 6-foot-7 Hatter, who finished with 15 points after going for 25 in last Friday’s opener against Bishop Carroll.
The Redskins’ largest lead was 33-18 on a Hatter lay-in with 2:46 left in the second quarter.
East (0-1, 0-1) refused to roll over, and fought back paced by its own freshman, 6-4 Daylan Jones, who scored 10 of his team-high 15 points after halftime. Junior guard Jaylen Randle had seven second-half points for the Blue Aces, who tied the score 53-53 with 59 seconds left on a Jones lay-in. But he couldn’t convert the three-point play, and the score remained tied.
Johnson took the ball and drove the lay for a floater that gave North the lead for good with 27.2 seconds to play.
Hatter then blocked Jones’ shot at the other end and was fouled by East’s D’Ron Jacobs. He then sank the clinchers with 2.3 seconds left.
North coach Gary Squires said the nail-biter was pretty much expected.
“Last Friday with Carroll, it was a dogfight, too,” he said. “I knew East would bounce back, and I told the kids we’ve got to come out and play harder with our intensity, and I thought we did in the first half.”
Johnson and Jones are just two of a fine freshman crop in the City League this season, and North coach Gary Squires said he’s happy to have his.
“I’m very thankful that Jackie’s at our place, absolutely,” Squires said.
Not to overlook Hatter, who has bolstered Johnson’s 50-point output in the first two games with a total of 40.
“He came on last year as a junior,” Squires said. “He’s grown a couple of inches, and got in the weight room over the summer. He’s really stepped up his game.”
Not to mention a little practice at the free-throw line.
“Lately a lot (of time practicing),” he said. “As we were coming into this, I knew I wanted the ball in my hands at the end of the game, because I’m going to knock those down.”
In addition to sinking all five in the fourth quarter, Hatter was eight of nine in the game.
“He’s just doing a great job, and with his length, it really helps us,” Squires said.
Hatter said his primary role is to do as he did Tuesday night – seal the deal.
“Mainly just closing out the game,” he said. “As a senior, I know I need to step up and get everyone else rolling by getting rebounds, blocks and stuff like that.”
East 11 12 15 15 – 53
North 18 16 11 12 – 57
EAST – Jones 15, Randle 13, Jacobs 6, Hill 2, Bradley 4, Burrell 1, P. Johnson 3, Massey 7, Sears 2.
NORTH – J. Johnson 23, Hatter 15, Moose 10, Butner 4, McCollum 3, Wilson 2.