LUMBERTON — One after another, Azaya Graham's 3-point attempts rattled out.
Finally, early in the fourth quarter, she found her touch when it mattered most. Graham buried back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Lumberton girls basketball team their first lead of the game and pave the way to their 55-49 season-opening win over South View on Monday night at LHS.
Keanna McNeill led Lumberton (1-0) on offense with a game-high 21 points while Aliyah Ratley netted 11 and Graham chipped in eight.
"I'm real proud of these girls," Lumberton head coach Danny Graham said. "It was a great team effort, everybody contributed. It's always good to get the first one."
The Lady Pirates were right in the Lady Tigers' rearview throughout the first half, with McNeill carrying the load for Lumberton. She sunk consecutive corner 3-pointers at the 4-minute mark of the second quarter as Lumberton trailed 22-20. But, Chinyere Bell kept South View in front with a 28-24 lead at halftime. The sophomore forward finished with a team-high 18.
In the third, Lumberton closed the gap but could never take the lead. Ratley highlighted the frame with an old-fashioned three-point play on a baseline jumper to cut it to 35-34 at 3:25.
In the fourth, however, Graham's triples turned the tide.
Setting the tone with her pair of triples, the Lady Pirates marched to a 19-point frame while holding the Tigers to a mere nine. Lumberton cranked up its defense and controlled the glass thanks to the inside presence of Jordan Jones and Maya McCoy.
McCoy provided a late putback and Jones pumped in four straight in the closing minutes to help Lumberton pull away for good.
"I thought our patience and rebounding were the keys in the fourth," Coach Graham said.
Holland, Tigers pull away from Pirates
Ria'n Holland weaving into the paint for a layup — or drawn foul — was seen early and often by the Lumberton boys basketball team.
In the end it proved to be too often, as Holland worked his way to a game-high 24 points to lead the Tigers over the Pirates, 69-50, on Monday in season-opening action.
"He's a good ballplayer and he started to take over a little bit, so you got to give it to him," Lumberton head coach Mackey Register said.
The Pirates (0-1) trailed by four heading into the fourth quarter before the Tigers outscored the hosts 23-8 in the final eight minutes. South View, which opened the frame on a 7-0 run, swelled its lead to 57-43 after James Booker converted a rare four-point play as he was fouled on a 3-pointer.
"They just kind of got going," the first-year coach Register said. "We're still a work in progress. I'm new this year and a lot of guys are new to varsity.
Nevertheless, Register found some silver linings in the Pirates' opener.
"We had good effort tonight," he said. "I thought we fought real hard on the defensive end. We're going to be alright in the long run."
Montrae Strother gave Lumberton its only consistency on offense, finishing with a team-high 20 points, including a one-hand tomahawk dunk in the closing minute that sent Lumberton's student section into a frenzy. Strother was the lone Pirate in double figures.
Demetri Sheridan chipped in nine points while Colby Johnson and Darius Floyd had six apiece.
"We got to get some guys to help out and step up and take the offensive burden off him (Strother)," Register said.