Local basketball tips off 2018


Sampson County teams look for success in new year

By Michael Hardison - Sports Editor



Clinton’s Xzavier Howard with some fancy handles earlier in the season. Clinton’s men continue to roll, now on a five-game winning streak going into conference play against Midway. The ladies’ struggles are still apparent, having lost four straight going into their game with the Midway Raiders on Tuesday.


Midway’s Leah Williams goes for a layup earlier in the season. She has been the leader and center of this Midway team that remains unbeaten. However, the men have not had the same levels of success, sitting at .500 on the year going into Tuesday action.


Union’s Derrick Smith drives hard to the basket during a previous game. He has been playing consistently well all year, the driving force of the Spartan offense. The Union men and women stood at 4-8 and 3-8, respectively, entering Tuesday action.


Lakewood’s Kiayre Bailey, at the line against Clinton, has been the main source of offense for the Leopards all season. Both the men’s and women’s teams entered Tuesday’s games against Rosewood looking for their first wins.


Hobbton’s Jusen Bell goes for a contested layup early in the season. He’s one of the senior guards who has been a key scorer for the Wildcats. The men sit at 0-2 in conference play and the women are still searching for their first victory, which they were trying to find at Princeton on Tuesday.


The basketball season for Sampson County has been underway for awhile now, but as it gains steam entering 2018 and conference play heats up, some local teams are trying to build on success while others attempt to overcome obstacles.

Tuesday marked the first day back to school following the holiday break — teams were active in tournaments through Christmas and up to New Year’s — and the following provides a glance at the status of men and women’s teams entering a new calendar year.

Clinton Dark Horses

After having won the state title last year, the Lady Horses have been the targets of everyone’s attention this season. While the expectations have been high for them, they’ve faced some definite struggles, the main one being injuries.

The first injury was to up-and-coming freshman guard Isa Banks, then to one of their captains and leading scorers Alex Canady. Despite battling injury, the offense has continued to produce, led by senior Ashlyn Williams.

Averaging 47.3 points per game with an overall field goal percentage of 40 percent, the offense is still finding ways to score. Add in the 5.7 assists per game and the fact that they grab 26.1 rebounds a game, the system is still working with missing pieces.

With a defense nabbing 13.2 steals and getting 3.1 blocks per game they’ve been playing well. Unfortunately it hasn’t been enough to win them a lot of games, currently sitting at 4-8 and on a four-game losing streak.

The men have not had the same problems as the women having lost only one game this season — to the defending champs, the Northside Monarchs. Coming off their second title after winning two holiday tournaments, the Horses are now on another five-game winning streak.

Scoring a lot of points all year, 74.7 per game on a field goal percentage of 47 percent, they’ve dominated teams all year. And not just any teams either, with 3A and 4A schools such as Southern Wayne and Scotland on the wrong end of the score.

Amassing a huge amount of rebounds, with 45.6 a game, and sharing the ball equally well, with 18.1 assist per game, they are clicking offensively. The defense hasn’t been outshined either, averaging 14.1 steals and 6.4 blocks a game, to help put the Horses in a solid position at 10-1.

Both teams are preparing for conference play on Tuesday when they host the Midway Raiders.

Midway Raiders

The Lady Raiders have been the team the beat this season as they remain without a wrinkle on their season after 11 games. Throw in their dominant performance and title win during the Kenny Bass Holiday Classic at Hobbton, and the Midway ladies keep on rolling.

This experienced team has been putting out a ton of points all year, 64.4 per game, as no team has been able to slow them down. Shooting at 47 percent on the season, they’re shooting as good as any team in the county. The ball movement has been just as good, with 12.4 assists per game being the result.

Owning the glass and getting plenty of second chance opportunities, the Lady Raiders are averaging 31.9 rebounds a game, making the team a force in the paint. They have also generated plenty of turnovers, averagnig 18.9 steals to go along with 3.8 blocks each game.

While not playing nearly as well as the women, the Raider men stood at .500 entering play Tuesday. Arguably the biggest hiccup of the year was the one conference loss they suffered.

They don’t score a bunch of points only averaging 47.1 per game on 39 percent shooting while averaging 8.6 assists.

The Raiders average 23.3 rebounds a game and 6.1 steals and 1.2 blocks and, despite not being a high-volume team, are the second best men’s basketball team in the county record-wise, standing at 5-5 on the season.

Both the Raiders teams were set to rematch the Dark Horses on Tuesday, this time in conference action.

Union Spartans

The ladies of Union have not had the most ideal season thus far having lost their fair share of games, including two out of three conference games.

Scoring less than 40 points this year at 35.2 per game they have issues putting points on the board. Part of the issue is that the Spartans have had trouble scoring, their shooting percentage standing at 26 percent. Add in the fact that they don’t pass the ball at a high level, with just 4.5 assists per game, the offense has roadblocks to pass.

However, they rebound exceptionally well with 34.6 a game, they just can’t convert on offense. The defense is just as good with its share of takeaways, at 11.4 steals, and a clear presence down low with 6.6 blocks.

They currently are 3-8 overall and 1-2 in the conference.

The Spartan men, at 4-8, are having a very similar season having won only one more game than their ladies. Things aren’t as bleak for them though as they’ve won very important games this season being 2-1 in conference play.

Averaging the third most points per game in the county among men’s teams, at 48.3, they know how to score. However, they could shot the ball better at 37 percent and pass better with 6.9 assists per game, they have it going a little on offense.

They have grabbed 33.2 rebounds a game, but their defense is not on par with the offense, managing 7.3 steals and a single block a game.

Both Spartans teams were attempting to get back on track Tuesday when they hosted North Duplin for a conference match.

Lakewood Leopards

The Lady Leopards have had a rough season thus far, being without a win over the course of their eight games. They are a young team, having only one senior, which adds to their struggles.

One of the main obstacles they face is the ability to score the basketball. Only getting 29.3 points per game, while struggling to move the ball around with 5.7 assists, offense needs a lot of work.

This is almost hard to believe though as they shoot the ball just about as good as Midway, with a field goal percentage of 58 percent. The Lady Leopards boast 16.4 rebounds, 8.6 steals and 3.3 blocks per game.

The men are having an identical season, being without a win on the year over the same amount of games. It’s not because they haven’t been playing well, they just manage to be on the wrong side of the scoreboard all season.

The Leopard men know how to generate points on offense, scoring the second highest points per game behind Clinton with 52.8 a game. They have tallied up a total of 422 points over just eight games.

Much like the ladies, they under achieve at every other part of the floor. Though they aren’t the worst in the county they only average 5.4 steals and 4 blocks a game. Where they really suffer is in rebounding the ball, snatching only 10.1 per game.

With both teams at 0-8, their seasons are far from over as they were set to play their first conference matches of the year Tuesday against Rosewood.

Hobbton Wildcats

The Lady Wildcats have struggled the most out of any team in the county all year on both ends of the floor and have yet to find their first win under new coach Tori Reynolds.

The defense is still trying to find their way, allowing teams to score between 48 and 62 points over the course of nine games. While this is a clear problem, the offense has its share of issues with which to contend, having yet to sniff the 30-point mark in a single game. The highest tally was 23 points.

The Union women stand at 0-9 overall and 0-2 in the conference.

The men are fortunate to have plenty of experience on the team, with seniors all over the roster, led by the likes of Omar Farrior and Jusen Bell.

The team has also managed to win some close games, the most recent being over Wilmington Christian Academy 65-62 in overtime during Hobbton’s Kenny Bass Holiday Classic. The Wildcats have made it to the classic title game in consecutive years.

Hobbton is now 3-9 overall and 1-1 in the conference. Both teams were to hit the court again Tuesday, traveling to Princeton for their conference games.

Clinton’s Xzavier Howard with some fancy handles earlier in the season. Clinton’s men continue to roll, now on a five-game winning streak going into conference play against Midway. The ladies’ struggles are still apparent, having lost four straight going into their game with the Midway Raiders on Tuesday.
http://www.clintonnc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/web1_DSC_0020.jpgClinton’s Xzavier Howard with some fancy handles earlier in the season. Clinton’s men continue to roll, now on a five-game winning streak going into conference play against Midway. The ladies’ struggles are still apparent, having lost four straight going into their game with the Midway Raiders on Tuesday.

Midway’s Leah Williams goes for a layup earlier in the season. She has been the leader and center of this Midway team that remains unbeaten. However, the men have not had the same levels of success, sitting at .500 on the year going into Tuesday action.
http://www.clintonnc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/web1_mhswbball.jpgMidway’s Leah Williams goes for a layup earlier in the season. She has been the leader and center of this Midway team that remains unbeaten. However, the men have not had the same levels of success, sitting at .500 on the year going into Tuesday action.

Union’s Derrick Smith drives hard to the basket during a previous game. He has been playing consistently well all year, the driving force of the Spartan offense. The Union men and women stood at 4-8 and 3-8, respectively, entering Tuesday action.
http://www.clintonnc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/web1_uvwbmbball.jpgUnion’s Derrick Smith drives hard to the basket during a previous game. He has been playing consistently well all year, the driving force of the Spartan offense. The Union men and women stood at 4-8 and 3-8, respectively, entering Tuesday action.

Lakewood’s Kiayre Bailey, at the line against Clinton, has been the main source of offense for the Leopards all season. Both the men’s and women’s teams entered Tuesday’s games against Rosewood looking for their first wins.
http://www.clintonnc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/web1_DSC_0031.jpgLakewood’s Kiayre Bailey, at the line against Clinton, has been the main source of offense for the Leopards all season. Both the men’s and women’s teams entered Tuesday’s games against Rosewood looking for their first wins.

Hobbton’s Jusen Bell goes for a contested layup early in the season. He’s one of the senior guards who has been a key scorer for the Wildcats. The men sit at 0-2 in conference play and the women are still searching for their first victory, which they were trying to find at Princeton on Tuesday.
http://www.clintonnc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/web1_hvtmbball1.jpgHobbton’s Jusen Bell goes for a contested layup early in the season. He’s one of the senior guards who has been a key scorer for the Wildcats. The men sit at 0-2 in conference play and the women are still searching for their first victory, which they were trying to find at Princeton on Tuesday.
Sampson County teams look for success in new year

By Michael Hardison

Sports Editor

Reach Michael Hardison at mhardison@clintonnc.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @SampsonInd.

Reach Michael Hardison at mhardison@clintonnc.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @SampsonInd.

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