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Lady Warriors survive PCA

MERRY HILL – Games in the Tarheel Independent Conference are supposed to be like this one.

Lawrence Academy’s varsity girls came in on a three-game winning streak, but battled to the final minutes to pull out a 30-27 victory over Pungo Christian Academy.

“I thought they had a good defensive plan and ran it to perfection,” Lawrence Academy first-year skipper Jack Williford said. “Our team was able to suck it up, use a little heart and win the ball game in the last minute and a half.”

Lawrence indeed won the game in the final 1:20 with a field goal and a pair of free throws from senior Kendall Street. The game, however, was in question from the beginning of the final period.

The Lady Raiders opened the final quarter with a hoop from Jordan Dunbar and a three-pointer from Brinkley Johnson that brought them to a 20-all tie with Lawrence.

Street pushed the Lady Warriors back in front, but Dunbar came back to hit another bucket to again tie the score.

Lawrence edged back in front with 3:23 to play on a pair of Street free throws, but Pungo took their first lead of the game just 14 seconds later when Johnson hit from behind the arc to push the Lady Raiders in front, 25-24.

The visitors extended their advantage moments later when Dunbar scored again to make it 27-24.

Williford switched his defense to a box-and-one to stop Johnson and the strategy worked. Katherine Gilbert played the man-to-man spot to perfection and didn’t allow Johnson to score again.

“We had to change defenses a couple of times in the last few minutes of the game,” he said. “The girls adapted and we got some big rebounds from Kathryn Taylor and a couple of key steals by Leanne Eubanks.”

Street scored consecutive buckets to get Lawrence back into the lead with 1:20 to play and pushed the advantage to three on two late free throws.

From there, it was Eubanks grabbing an errant PCA pass and dribbling the clock out that sealed the victory.

“Defense certainly was the key for us,” Lady Raiders’ Coach Melanie Sawyer said. “We knew we had to focus on Kendall. She had a good game, but it could have been much worse.”

While PCA’s defense limited Street, it was their offense that struggled as they shot just 18 percent (10-of-55) from the floor.

Lawrence’s shooting percentage was just as bad as they also shot 18 percent (12-of-67) during the evening.

“Kendall, while she had a good game, had times tonight when she didn’t look like she was sure what she was doing,” Williford said. “She recognized that and corrected it.”

The coach said while shooting wasn’t good for the Warriors, rebounding was.

“I think we won the game on the boards tonight,” he said.

The Lady Warriors got 16 boards from Street, 13 from Eubanks and nine from Taylor as well as five from Sarah Gillam.

Street led the Warriors’ offensive production with 19 while Gilbert had six points, which were the first six of the game. Johnson led PCA with 12 points.

The victory gave Lawrence their fourth victory in a row and improved their overall mark to 7-8 and 3-2 in the Tarheel Independent Conference.

“That’s a typical conference game,” Williford said. “You have to come to play every night. We’re both fortunate and happy to win.”

Lady Warriors (30): Kendall Street n 19,

Katherine Gilbert n 6, Leanne Eubanks n 3, Kathryn Taylor n 2

Lady Raiders (27): Brinkley Johnson n 12, Tess Smithwick n 6, Jordan Dunbar n 6, Breatte Garrison n 2, Brooke Modlin – 1