LUMBERTON — While a lot of the focus for the Lumberton girls basketball team goes to starters London Thompson, Jasmine McBride and Madison Canady, a late second-quarter run from the Lady Pirates started behind the play of the capable hands of two newcomers to this year’s team.
Marlena McClure and Alexandria Simpson’s play ignited a 17-3 run in the second quarter as Lumberton topped South Central 70-46 in the third round of the NCHSAA 4A state playoffs at home on Saturday. Next up is a return visit to the fourth round for the Lady Pirates, who will host No. 3 Millbrook at home on Tuesday for a 7 p.m. tipoff.
“It’s been a great year so far no matter what happens, and I’m just real proud of this win,” Lumberton coach Danny Graham said. “I thought our players stepped up big time.
“It’s just a great team win. I thought our defense was good. We’re just very fortunate to get back to the fourth round. It shows that we’ve got a good program.”
After playing neck and neck with the Lady Falcons for the first 11 minutes, No. 2 Lumberton (27-1) shook off its struggles and the slow pace that No. 8 South Central (18-9) had sent the game into, and took a commanding lead into halftime.
Up 23-17 with four minutes remaining in the second period, Simpson and McClure scored 13 of the next 17 points for Lumberton and changed the tides of the game. Simpson’s bucket and the foul, which she converted for a three-point play, and another layup later in the frame took the lead out to double digits for the first time, 28-18.
Simpson’s play off the bench was a major plus for Lumberton scoring nine points, well above her two points per game average coming in, and providing quality minutes while Canady and Destiny Hardin took a breather on the bench.
“She came off the bench and gave us a big, big lift,” Graham said. “It just shows the confidence they have in each other and that they believe in each other.”
McClure came up with big 3-pointer after big 3-pointer on the night, with a three of her four total coming in the second. After a trey in the opening minutes of the second pushed the Lady Pirates’ lead to 19-14. Later she canned back-to-back 3s as Lumberton went up 36-18 with 1:25 left in the first half.
She finished with 15 points to follow up her 12-point performance against Leesville Road. In the past two games Graham has seen her shooting take a step up from where it had been earlier this season.
“Coach Sam (Davis) has been telling me to keep shooting and shoot it with rhythm,” McClure said. “It feels good (to hit big 3s), but then you’ve got to get back on defense.”
South Central dipped into Lumberton’s 20-point halftime lead in the third quarter behind five straight points out of the gate by Anna Mewborn, but Simpson and McClure played a part in the Lady Pirates offensive streak in the third quarter where they went up 56-31 on a Thompson layup to close out the third. Thompson scored 12 of her game-high 18 points in the second half.
The trip to the fourth round is not only a return for Lumberton, but also for McClure in her first season after spending the previous three seasons at East Columbus, where she went to the fourth round as a freshman.
“It feels good because in my 10th and 11th grade year we didn’t make it. It feels good to be back,” she said. “Tuesday, we’ve got to bring it.”
Brittany Tyson led South Central with nine points while Brittany Gibbs and Twanasja Hill added eight points.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.