LUMBERTON — Tied with Richmond County at 43-43 with four minutes left in the game, the Lumberton girls basketball team, after squandering a fourth-quarter lead, was in dire need of a spark.
They got one in Keanna McNeill.
The senior forward steered a dominating 15-0 Lady Pirate run to pull Lumberton away for a 58-43 Southeastern Conference win over Richmond Friday night at Lumberton High. McNeill played a hand in 13 of Lumberton’s final 15 points, scoring seven and dishing out three assists.
“I guess the strength I have being a four-year varsity player, I can understand and see the court better than the younger ones and show the leadership,” said McNeill, who finished with a team-high 13 points. “I was just driving and feeding the post the ball; I know they can finish. When they collapsed on me I know they’re going to be open. I just wanted to carry the team.”
McNeill started her shouldering of the Lady Pirates with a backdoor pass to Kaitlyn Singeltary for two before pumping in a put-back layup as she was fouled for an old-fashioned 3-point play on the next possession. She threaded assists to Aliyah Ratley and McKoy for buckets and pumped in two more layups to round out Lumberton’s 15-0 run.
It was the kind of clutch performance Lumberton head coach Danny Graham has come to expect from his senior forward.
“Keanna is kind of like the glue,” Graham said. “She’s one of our better players and down the stretch, I like the ball to be in her hands. Because usually she’s going to do good things with it.”
Lumberton’s fourth-quarter flurry was a stark contrast to the way McNeill and company opened their SEC showdown with Richmond. The Lady Pirates were turnover prone and sluggish in the opening eight minutes as they sputtered to a 21-13 deficit after the first quarter.
But after allowing 21 in the first, Lumberton changed its tune to defense. Thanks to its ball-swarming press, the Lady Pirates held Richmond to single-digit quarters the rest of the way.
LHS opened the second quarter on an 8-1 run, fueled by multiple swipe-and-scores from Raven Ingram and Azaya Graham, and took its first lead of the second quarter — 23-22 — on a Graham jumper at 3:50. Graham and McKoy finished with 12 points apiece.
Shaquail Wall, however, kept the Lady Raiders out in front in the first half, scoring all of her team-high 13 points, including back-to-back 3-pointers in the final minutes of the second quarter to give Richmond a 30-29 edge at intermission.
“I think we really didn’t play that well, especially in the first half,” Coach Graham said. “The second half we played a lot better defensively. I thought we got a lot of good stuff out of our press and did a lot of good things. I thought our team kind of came together better in the second half.”
And Lumberton kept the defensive pace in the third, ending the quarter on an 8-0 run — capped by back-to-back layups by McKoy — to hold a 43-38 lead heading into the fourth.
“I saw a will to win, they didn’t want to lose,” Coach Graham said.
Especially McNeill and her fellow seniors.
“We’re just trying to keep the wins,” McNeill said. “This is the best team we’ve had in four years and we just want to keep our heads together and on straight.”
McNeill was reassured of her team’s resilience during the final three and a half minutes of the fourth when Lumberton compiled its 15-0 game-sealing spree.
“It shows that we got character and we’re not going to fall when it gets hard,” McNeill said.
Floyd’s 22 not enough for Pirates
With two seconds left in the first quarter, Lumberton’s Darius Floyd canned a 25-foot 3-pointer.
Floyd was just getting warmed up.
The 5-foot-10 junior guard hit six 3-pointers — four in the fourth quarter — en route to a career-high 22 points Friday night. In the end, it wasn’t enough as Lumberton fell to Richmond, 71-58, in an SEC contest.
Floyd entered Friday’s contest with just 43 points in 13 games (3.3 PPG).
“He’s been getting better and better in practice and starting to get a little more confidence,” Lumberton head coach Mackie Register said. “Hopefully that will continue the rest of the season. We need that third guy that can score.”
Montrae Strother and Demetri Sheridan, Lumberton’s two leading scorers at 16.7 and 12.6 PPG, were held to six and four points, respectively.
Shydamion Ellerbe led Richmond with a game-high 21 points, stamping his dominance with a one-handed flush in the fourth for his final two points. Kenneth Wallace added 10.
After Lumberton crawled back from a 13-3 hole to tie it at 21-21 through one period, Richmond outscored the Pirates 23-7 in the second to pave the way to its win.
“They were better in transition and their height is a lot to match up against,” Register said. “But, we’re going to bounce back, we’ll be fine. We’re just getting started in the conference. We’re looking at the marathon not the sprint.”
Jez Deese had 11 points for the Pirates.