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Warriors hold off PCA

MERRY HILL – Lawrence Academy survived.

The Warriors, seeded third in the Tarheel Independent Conference, fought off a persistent Pungo Christian Academy to advance to the semifinals of the league tournament with a 73-53.

The Raiders took the lead late in the first quarter and gave the Warriors a fit through the entire second quarter before Lawrence’s offense came alive.

“We had 17 turnovers in the first half,” Warrior basketball boss Tommy Tripp said. “We just can’t do that and expect to be successful.”

Tripp said he and his staff were concerned about Pungo coming into the contest because of having beaten the Raiders twice in the season.

That concern was justified through the first 16 minutes of play.

After Lawrence got up to a fairly easy 11-4 lead, the Raiders began to settle down offensively.

Joey Oliver buried a triple with 4:46 to play in the first quarter that sparked a 5-2 Raider run and then Kyle Smithwick started a 9-0 run to close out the first quarter for PCA. The Raiders got two scores from Justin Allen on the run as well as a hoop from Dustin Latham.

Pungo edged ahead 18-15 by the end of the first quarter, thanks to the late spurt, and continued to pull away in the second quarter. Latham hit a bucket following three PCA free throws, pushing the Raider lead to 23-15.

Warrior senior Marshall Ellis buried a triple with 4:55 to play in the first half and sparked a 7-0 Lawrence run that go them within one (23-22).

PCA responded with back-to-back hoops from Daniel Vann and Oliver to push back to a five-point lead (27-22).

With that five-point advantage still in tact, Lawrence scored the final four points of the quarter, getting a hoop from Gray Harrell and free throws from Judd Whitehead to get within 31-30.

The Warriors started the second half with an 11-2 run that was enough to give them a 41-33 advantage from which they ever looked back.

Alex Hodges started the spurt with a field goal 30 seconds into the period and Harrell, Ellis and Whitehead also scored for the Warriors. Lawrence outscored PCA 23-6 in that period and went on for the win.

“Our guys picked up the intensity in the second half,” Tripp said. “We made the decision to be aggressive because the aggressive team is always the one that benefits from the calls.”

The coach was pleased with his team’s 18 steals and felt they did a better job in the second half rebounding.

“I think when we started out man-to-man in the third quarter and picked up our intensity, it helped,” he said. “We were able to get a couple of quick baskets and that was the difference.”

The Warriors now meet second-seeded Ridgecroft School, a team they’ve beaten twice in three meetings, in the semifinals Friday.

Lawrence (73): Judd Whitehead n 26, Gray Harrell n 11, Marshall Ellis n 10, Alex Hodges n 10, Chad Oliver n 10, J. Spencer n 6

Pungo (53): Daniel Vann n 17, Z. Fortescue n 8, J. Allen n 7, J. Oliver n 7, K. Smithwick n 6, D. Latham n 4, M. Braddy n 2, D. Bell – 2