The Pirates won the first by five points, the second by three. But the lessons of those losses gave Pinecrest coach Janie Hodges her gameplan for Thursday’s 47-30 win in the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinal at Lumberton High School.
Hodges knew Lumberton’s main scoring threat would be Keana McNeill, so her team played a box and one defense, with Dessence Woddell guarding McNeill.
“(Dessence) just stayed with her the entire night,” Hodges said. “We had to tire her out, so she did what I asked her to do.”
The defense limited McNeill to three points, all from a 3-pointer in the third quarter, as the Pirates’ remaining players struggled to find offensive momentum.
“They ran a box and one, and nobody else stepped up,” said Lumberton coach Danny Graham.
The offensive struggles gave Pinecrest an 11-7 lead at the end of the first quarter, and the Patriots led by at least 10 points at the end of every quarter afterwards. The only lead the Pirates had came early in the game, when Lumberton went up 3-0 on a 3-point play by Jordan Jones with 6:47 in the first quarter.
Pinecrest then went on a 11-2 run to go up 11-5 with 2:13 left in the first. A layup by Azaya Graham got the lead down to 11-7 with 46 seconds in the quarter. In the second, Pinecrest used the height of post player Janea Williams to snag rebounds and get points in the paint, leading by as many as 11 points midway through the quarter.
Points from Jones and Aliyah Ratley got the deficit down to 21-14 until Pinecrest scored the final points of the half to go up 24-14. Out of halftime, Lumberton had a 7-0 run, getting a short shot from Jones, McNeill’s 3-pointer, and free throws from Ratley to narrow Pinecrests’ lead to 24-21, a run that didn’t surprise Hodges.
“We knew Lumberton wasn’t going to lie down without a fight,” she said.
Pinecrest responded with an 11-1 run and eventually finished the quarter up 37-25, allowing only five more points in the fourth quarter. Williams and Felicia Painter led Pinecrest with 16 points each, mostly on layups.
The Pirates, who struggled both from the floor and with a 10-22 performance at the free-throw line, were led by Graham, Ratly and Jones with seven points each. No other players had more than three points.
Fairmont to play East Columbus for TRC title
The Fairmont High School boys basketball team had 14 different players score Thursday night in a 78-36 win over Red Springs in the Three Rivers Conference tournament semifinals.
The Golden Tornadoes jumped out to a 29-7 lead in the first quarter and were up 43-12 at halftime. Fairmont was led by Kwinton Hinson, who had 14 points. Jackie Oxendine, who had three 3-pointers, and Luke Hunt both had 11 points.
Jaqwan McLaurin and Corey Okonkwo led Red Springs with nine points each. Fairmont advances to the tournament championship at 7:30 tonight, where they’ll play East Columbus. East Columbus beat St. Pauls 57-39 Wednesday in the tournament’s other semifinal game.
The Gators limited St. Pauls to under 10 points in three of the four quarters, going ahead 29-23 by halftime and allowing only 16 more points the rest of the game. East Columbus was led by a trio of double-digit scorers. Elijah Gresham had 17, Maquise King had 14 and Ronald Ratliff had 11.
Dustin Canady led St. Pauls with 14. The tournament wraps up tonight at Fairmont High School. Red Springs and South Robeson play at 4:30 p.m. for the final state playoff spot.
The girls championship game between St. Pauls and East Columbus will be played at 6, with the boys championship following at 7:30.