DUBLIN — Keanna McNeill scored 18 of her game-high 24 pints in the second half to lead the Lumberton girls basketball team past host West Bladen, 61-40, for the championship of the Woodmen of the World Christmas Tournament on Saturday.
The Lady Pirates improved to 8-3, while West Bladen fell to 8-3 and suffered its first loss at home this season.
The Lady Knights opened the game with a 6-0 run and held Lumberton scoreless for the first 4:08. But when the Lady Pirates finally scored, they didn’t stop for nearly 2:30 — running off a 9-0 spurt that featured six points by McNeill. The two teams traded a pair of points before West Bladen finished the first quarter with a 4-0 run on baskets by Lexi Storms to take a 12-11 lead.
The Lady Pirates answered quickly, scoring the first six points of the second stanza sparked by a 3-pointer by Azaya Graham. West Bladen’s first points came at the 5:07 mark, but Lumberton followed with a 9-3 run to close the half with a 26-17 lead.
West Bladen’s 13 turnovers in the half concerned coach Pam Stephens.
“Ouch, too many,” she said. “And we aren’t hitting our shots when we get good looks in close.”
Lumberton coach Danny Graham wasn’t entirely pleased, either.
“Our press helped create turnovers, but we have to do a better job with our halfcourt defense,” he said.
The Lady Pirates opened the second half by forcing six straight West Bladen turnovers and converted them with a basket by Jordan Jones, and then three straight baskets by McNeill, including a 3-pointer, to open a 35-17 margin. Taylor Stephens stopped the Lumberton spurt with a basket, but Raven Ingram drained a 3-pointer to put Lumberton up, 38-19.
The two teams traded points through the rest of the quarter until, with less than a minute left, Courtney Thompson canned a basket and Jasmine Rozier hit a 3-pointer to pull West Bladen to within 41-28 going into the fourth quarter.
The Lady Knights scored 12 points down the stretch, but 10 were from the free throw line. Lumberton saved the best for last, finishing the game on a 13-4 run.
Pam Stephens said Lumberton just had too much beef and speed.
“We ran into a buzz-saw in the second half,” she said. “But we battled hard against a good team.”
Danny Graham gave credit for the win to his defense.
“The press is our key; everything works off that,” he said. “And we played well as a team. We stayed active and I think they got tired.”
Behind McNeill’s 24 points, Lumberton got 13 points from Aliyah Ratley — and both were named to the all-tournament team.
Thompson scored 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead West Bladen, and was also named to the all-tournament team. Lexi Storms had 10 rebounds for the Lady Knights.
Lumberton boys fall to Whiteville
A third-quarter lull led to the Lumberton High School boys basketball team’s demise in a 59-45 loss to Whiteville High School in the Woodmen of the World Christmas Tournament championship on Saturday night at West Bladen High School.
After trailing by a slim 27-25 margin at halftime, the Pirates (4-7) fell into scoring slump as they were outscored 13-4 in the third quarter and never recovered.
“Turnovers were the story of the game,” said Lumberton head coach Mackie Register whose team had over 30 giveaways. “We didn’t protect the ball tonight. And we came out flat in the second half.”
Johnny Lee Willis led Whiteville with a game-high 15 points.
Montrae Strother and Demetri Sheridan led Lumberton with 12 points apiece.
The Pirates’ runner-up finish is their second straight. Lumberton finished second in the Robeson County Shootout three weeks ago.
“This is the second championship game we’ve been in, so I’m proud of our boys,” Register said. “Our guys are disappointed with second place but it’s something to be proud of.”