SOUTH CHINA — As Erskine Academy’s full-court trap started making Nokomis’ once comfortable lead melt away, the Warriors’ all-freshman backcourt of Joshua Smestad and Zachary Hartsgrove made the kind of decision many young players shy away from when faced with such pressure.

They attacked.

The duo’s aggressiveness led to six straight points during a key stretch late in the third quarter that put Nokomis back in control again and sent the young Warriors to a 57-36 win on Saturday.

Senior Samuel Brown led Nokomis with 17 points. Smestad, a freshman point guard, added 15 points and five assists. Josh Reed, Matt Clary and Caleb Stillman finished with seven points apiece for the Eagles.

Nokomis’ backcourt swung momentum back in its team’s favor once and for all shortly after Reed’s 3-pointer and Clary’s free throw cut the Warrior lead to 11 midway through the third period.

Hartsgrove’s runner snapped a 10-3 Erskine run. He followed that with a jumper off the Warriors’ press breaker then, after a turnover, Smestad dribbled the length of the court through the Eagles’ pressure for a layup that made it 40-25.

“Our spacing wasn’t good (against the press), and then finishing at the back end was a problem. When you have young players, sometimes it happens,” Nokomis coach Carl Parker said. “The smartest player on the floor was our freshman point guard.”

“We counted on bothering their two freshman guards,” Erskine coach Ben Willoughby said. “To their credit, they’re savvy. They see the floor well and they make good decisions.”

Erskine (0-7), which struggled to find the range all game long (10-for-60 from the field), shot 2-for-18 from the floor in the fourth quarter and watched Nokomis (2-5), which got into the double bonus early in the period, pull away from the free throw line.

“One thing with a young team, we’ve just got to keep our cool,” said Nokomis senior captain Noah Kershner, who had eight points and 10 rebounds. “Sometimes younger kids get a little heated with pressure and so do some of us older guys, but I think just working on it every week just means we’re getting better and better every week.”

“Unfortunately, the cause of our offensive troubles all season long has been an inability to make shots,” Willoughby said. “Really, it’s free throws and layups that are costing us.”

Thanks to a 19-4 advantage on the offensive boards and five less turnovers than Nokomis, the Eagles attempted 26 more shots than the Warriors but never fully recovered after missing their first 11 shots of the game.

The cold spell allowed Nokomis to jump out to a 13-2 lead.

“I thought we rotated pretty well defensively in the first half,” Parker said. “I thought we got a little lazy in the third quarter, then in the fourth quarter we went to some zone to hopefully throw them off a little bit.”

Stillman’s pull-up jumper with 1:47 left in the first quarter was the Eagles’ first field goal. Reed’s tip-in at the buzzer cut the lead to single digits to end the period.

Clary started the second quarter with a 3-pointer to make it 15-9, but Brown scored back-to-back hoops to send the lead back into double digits for good early in the period.

“I think we’ve still got a chance to make the playoffs,” said Kershner, one of three seniors on Nokomis’ roster. “We’ve got a really talented group of kids. Physically and experience-wise, we’re lacking at the high school level, but we’re definitely playing really well the last couple of games.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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