ROWLAND — It may be January, but as South Robeson girls basketball coach Lula Ratley watched her team run the floor in a 54-50 win against St. Pauls on Tuesday, she saw a group of girls that are still working out the kinks.
“We’ve just got to do better. I’m glad we won, now we’re 2-1 (in conference play) but we’ve got so much to work on,” Ratley said. “It’s going to take time, but everyone is way ahead of us. We haven’t played that many games.”
Due to the school’s football team making a playoff run, the young Mustangs (2-4, 2-1 Three Rivers Conference) didn’t start the season until Dec. 6 and have played roughly half as many games as most of their opponents. Rather than the normal slate of games prior to the conference schedule, the team got a matchup against Purnell Swett in before opening Three Rivers Conference play against Red Springs last month.
Even the team’s return from winter break was delayed several days.
While the Mustangs are still sorting out some of early-season issues, Ratley saw progress while handing the Bulldogs (5-8, 3-1) their first conference loss of the season. Despite issues with rebounding and turnovers, the Mustangs overcame a halftime deficit, stopped a last-second scoring surge and had numerous girls step up as the defense focused on guard A’Terria Quick.
St. Pauls led 29-25 at halftime but scored only five points in the third quarter as shooting struggles kicked in. It included a 14-for-30 free throw performance on the night.
“We left so many points on the table,” said St. Pauls coach Mike White. “We missed so many free throws, we missed so many field goals. We played the floor well enough to win, we just couldn’t get the ball to go in the hole.”
For both teams the game was a matter of getting primary scoring from two players with a handful of girls providing support.
South Robeson scored first and got 3-pointers from Emonte McLeod and Quick to open the game up 7-2. The Mustangs scored 17 points in the quarter but got no more than five from any one person, including four from Kayala Rodger, to go up 17-11.
The Bulldogs rallied back in the second behind Tamara Glover to narrow the lead but didn’t tie it up until Kristen Locklear hit a long jumper to tie it 25-25. It was part of an 8-0 run that put St. Pauls up 29-24 at the end of the half.
But St. Pauls’s shooting went cold from there and South Robeson took a 35-33 lead with 3:02 left in the third and didn’t trail the rest of the way.
Savanna Hunt contributed a 3-pointer and two free throws to a run that ended the quarter and put South Rob up 44-34 entering the fourth. St. Pauls eventually made a late run and got the lead as low as four points in the final minute of the game.
Glover led St. Pauls with 17 points and Kristen Locklear had 13.
White said he had hoped his team would do a better job stopping Quick, who was limited to a team-high 21 points but still was the centerpiece of the offense. The Bulldogs used a heavy press and a box-and-one defense to limit her open looks.
Hunt finished with 16 points, including 13 in the second half, but it was the spot shooters such as McLeod, Rodger, Jaquel Stackhouse and Cheyenne Chavis that left Ratley most pleased.
“They really looked much better out there tonight,” Ratley said. “This was the best I’ve seen them yet and the best is yet to come.”
Bulldog boys beat South Robeson
There are some coaches that avoid breaking out the full-court press too early. St. Pauls boys coach Travis Lemanski isn’t among them.
“I’m not saving anything,” Lemanski said. “A lot of coaches won’t use that kind of pressure until the second half but I feel like it makes them start with a tremendous amount of energy, just with what we’re running, and I think that’s helped us score baskets. It doesn’t allow us to get too stagnant on offense because we’re getting so much of our offense off our defense creating turnovers.”
It’s a philosophy that worked last week against West Columbus and worked again Tuesday in an 83-58 win at South Robeson.
The Bulldogs (3-9, 2-2) kept the energy up all night, putting up 19 more points than their previous high this season. After a tied first quarter, they led 42-34 at halftime and allowed only six points in the third quarter.
“It’s one of the best games we’ve played as far as four solid quarters,” Lemanski said.
Trent Jacobs broke free for St. Pauls early, putting up nine points in the first quarter. He and Malik Livingston led St. Pauls with 18 points each as 10 different players scored for the team.
Reggie Scippio led South Robeson with 19 points and had all of his team’s scoring in the six-point third quarter. Cedric Sinclair had 13 points, including six in the first quarter, and Devin Smith had 10, eight in the first.
St. Pauls 83, South Robeson 58
St. Pauls 22 20 17 24 — 83
S. Robeson 22 12 6 18 — 58
ST. PAULS — Trent Jacobs 18, Malik Livingston 18, Bridges 9, Bullard 8, Murchison 7, Sansbury 6, Graham 6, Brooks 6, Patterson 3, Williams 2.
SOUTH ROBESON — Reggie Scippio 19, Cedric Sinclair 13, Devin Smith 10, Jones 9, Leach 4, McCallum 2.
3-Point Goals — STP: Bullard 2, Jacobs; SR: Smith 2, Scippio, Jones, Sinclair.
Records — St. Pauls 3-9, 2-2; South Robeson 2-6, 0-3.
South Robeson 54, St. Pauls 50
St. Pauls 11 18 5 16 — 50
S. Robeson 17 8 19 10 — 54
ST. PAULS — Tamara Glover 17, Kristen Locklear 13, Tia Glover 7, Roberson 7, Lesane 4, Mitchell 2.
SOUTH ROBESON — A’Terria Quick 21, Savanna Hunt 16, Rodger 6, McLeod 5, Stackhouse 4, Chavis 2.
3-Point Goals — SR: Quick 3, McLeod, Hunt.
Records — St. Pauls 5-8, 3-1 ; South Robeson 2-4, 2-1.