“One more quarter … let’s go,” Bird whispered from the free-throw line.
With Purnell Swett’s girls basketball team leading by nine against Lumberton, the Rams felt a monumental victory at their fingertips.
For head coach Danyel Locklear, who played on the last Swett team to defeat the Pirates, it was a long-awaited feeling.
Backed by a double-double from Bird, 15 points from Lewis and a slew of second-half stops at the defensive end, Swett ended a 14-year, 34-game losing streak to the Pirates Tuesday night with a 52-43 victory.
“Lumberton has been a goliath that we just had to take down tonight,” Locklear said. “My girls showed tonight that they don’t just go out and play basketball. We have a system. They’re still learning my system, we haven’t perfected everything yet, but we’re getting better.”
Lewis’ fastbreak layup gave the Rams a 47-37 lead with under three minutes to play and forced Lumberton coach Danny Graham into a brief timeout.
Down by as many as 12 in the fourth, the Pirates (10-9, 2-3) cut the deficit to six with 1:01 remaining but couldn’t draw any closer. Bird finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead a Swett (9-6, 2-3) frontline that received quality minutes from Sheena Sampson and Jamie Bird.
Sampson and the Bird sisters limited Lumberton’s Aliyah Ratley and Keana McNeill to a combined five points in the paint.
“We have not played a game that consistent all season,” Locklear said. “I had a real serious talk with my seniors today and let them know how close to the end of the season we are. Some of them were taken back and really thought about the importance of this game.”
Locklear, now in her second season, said Tuesday’s victory will be savored for a long time — especially if her Rams can win a few more games to secure a berth in the state playoffs.
“Whenever Purnell Swett and Lumberton play each other, it doesn’t matter what is on the line because they’re all important,” she said. “A lot of my girls realized tonight that this would be one of the last times they got to put on that Rams jersey. We kept our composure late in the game and I’m really proud of them.”
Reach Staff writer Brad Crawford at 910-272-6119 or at email@example.com