Pungo knocks out defending champion

Published 1:02 pm Thursday, November 19, 2009

MERRY HILL – Call them the ‘Fantastic Four’

Pungo Christian Academy’s varsity girls basketball team held off a late rally by defending champion Northeast Academy to down the Lady Eagles, 42-37, in the opening round of the Lt. Nick Brantley Scholarship Tournament Monday night at Lawrence Academy.

And they did it with just four players on the floor for the final two and a half minutes of the game.

“Wow!”, said Lady Raiders coach Melanie Sawyer. “Is that a good enough word to describe how I feel?

“I knew it was going to happen eventually,” she added. “When you’ve only got six players to dress out you have to prepare for that, so I’m glad it happened now rather than later in the season.”

“Besides,” she added with a grin, “it made the other girls really step up.”

Tess Smithwick keyed the Pungo attack and led all scorers with 20 points, eight of them coming in the third quarter when the Lady Raiders built a 13-point lead thanks to their fast break offense. ennifer Sykes led Northeast with 11.

Pungo jumped out to a 9-4 lead to open the contest thanks to moving the ball well up-and-down the court and good execution of their fast break offense and holding a slight rebounding edge.

After pushing it out to a 13-4 lead, Ashton Liverman followed up a missed jumper with a lay-up to pull the Lady Eagles within seven after the first quarter at 13-6.

Opening night jitters was evident for both teams and it showed mostly in the second quarter as neither club could sustain a run. Liverman got a steal and a lay-up at the four-minute mark to trim the Pungo lead to 15-10, but those were the final points of the half for Northeast.

The Lady Eagles missed the front end of two one-and-one attempts, while Jenna Sadler, Jordan Dunbar and Allison Armstrong closed out a 6-0 run for Pungo, and the Lady Raiders went into the locker-room at the break ahead, 21-10.

Smithwick opened the second half scoring for Pungo with a long jump shot to push the lead out to 23-10 before Sykes and Kelly Barnes scored on back-to-back lay-ups and trimmed the margin to nine at 23-14. Pungo answered Northeast with a 6-2 run of their own to make it 29-16.

Northeast then adjusted and forced a pair of Pungo turnovers thanks to pressure defense and cashed in with jumpers by Liverman and Taylor Cocke. After a driving lay-up by Smithwick, Northeast got the final points before the buzzer on a Lacy Pfeiffer lay-up thanks to an assist from Sykes and went into the fourth quarter down eight at 33-25.

Pungo spread it out to a dozen point lead on two Smithwick buckets before Northeast cashed in four straight free throws and got it back to eight at 37-29.

In a scramble for a loose ball with four-and-a-half minutes left and the Lady Raiders up, 38-29, Sadler drew here fifth foul and Sawyer was down to five players.

Northeast took advantage of the numbers and got the deficit down to seven on a long jumper by Pfeiffer just in front of the three-point line.

But back came Pungo on a driving lay-up on the baseline from Smithwick. Northeast worked the ball inside to draw fouls on Pungo but then went 0-4 from the line. The last Raiders foul, however, eliminated Armstrong and now Pungo was down to playing five-on-four with two and a half minutes to go.

Northeast got four quick points to make it 40-35 and could have cut it to just a two-point Pungo lead, but the Eagles couldn’t finish a three-point play and that left the score, 40-37.

After a Pungo miss, Northeast had three shots at cutting the lead to one, or tying, but missed all three attempts. Pungo made two free-throws in the last 20 seconds to secure their first win of the season and send them on to Wednesday night’s semi-final at Ridgecroft against Lawrence Academy.

“Lots of missed shots, lots of turnovers,” said Northeast coach Joella Brown. “We’ve got a lot to work on Tuesday.

“Some of everything they did gave us trouble tonight,” she added, “We didn’t win but we survived. Nobody got hurt and now we’ll just get ready for Thursday.”