Tuesday, 13 February 2018 02:35

No. 6 Lady Raiders Catch Fire at Jack Britt; Upset No. 3 Lady Bucs 58-47 in Opening Round of SAC Tournament

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Freshman Jayla McDougald charges down the court en route to netting two of her 11 points in her varsity debut. She was called up from the junior varsity team for Monday's SAC tournament game at Jack Britt. Freshman Jayla McDougald charges down the court en route to netting two of her 11 points in her varsity debut. She was called up from the junior varsity team for Monday's SAC tournament game at Jack Britt. Photo courtesy of Kyle Pillar.

FAYETTEVILLE – Getting hot at the right time usually leads to great things. And that was the case for the Richmond Senior High School Lady Raiders varsity basketball team Monday.

The No. 6-seeded Lady Raiders were looking to catch fire entering the opening round of the Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament on the road Monday. And they lit up the scoreboard in the second half for an upset victory over No. 3 Jack Britt High School. 

Scoring at least 50 points in a game for the first time since beating Scotland High School on January 12 (nine games), a plethora of Lady Raiders (6-14, 4-11 SAC) chipped in to help Richmond secure a convincing 58-47 win over the Lady Buccaneers (11-12, 9-6 SAC).

“I expect (us) to win every single night,” head coach Rosalind McDonald said with a big smile following the win. “We don’t always do it, but I expect it. The junior varsity players really stepped up for us tonight.”

Joining the varsity squad for the first time this season were point guard Jayla McDougald and center Jardai Tillman, and together combined for 17 points in their varsity debuts (McDougald, 11 points; Tillman, six points).

Both freshmen, McDougald and Tillman are coming off an impressive season and an SAC conference title with the junior varsity team. The pair entered the game in the first quarter off the bench and helped ignite a second-half spark that would ultimately help Richmond sink the Lady Bucs.

Richmond got off to a slow start, scoring a total of only 18 first-half points. Lady Raiders’ turnovers and early foul trouble gave Jack Britt the upper hand thanks to draining eight free throws in the first quarter.

Sophomore point guard Allexis Swinney, who has undoubtedly been Richmond’s most consistent player this season, scored a game-high 21 points and scored four of her points in the game’s opening eight minutes. With just under a minute to play, Swiney snagged a steal and laid in a basket to cut Jack Britt’s lead to 12-10.

In the second quarter, the Lady Bucs extended their lead to four points before sophomore guard Hailey Miller nailed a triple from the right wing to help keep stride. With the two teams tied at 18 with 1:33 remaining before the break, Jack Britt’s Alex Abston hit three consecutive free throws following a foul by Richmond sophomore guard Keionna Love.

Abston followed up her run at the charity stripe with a mid-range jumper just seconds later, and junior Kenzie Wilburn added a bucket under the hoop near the buzzer to help the Lady Bucs end on a 7-0 run and secure a 25-18 lead at halftime.

But McDonald’s message to her team in the locker room was simple – don’t send the Lady Bucs to the line and let them beat Richmond at the free throw line. The message was well received as the Lady Raiders answered the call.

Out of the break, Richmond slowly hacked away at the deficit and nearly doubled its total score in the quarter, as Love rifled a three-pointer from the right side to open the Lady Raiders’ scoring. Swiney, who scored 17 of her 21 points in the second half, added a layup off a McDougald steal and a baseline jumper to cut the lead to 29-25 with 3:26 left in the third quarter.

A Tillman jumper off the glass and a Swiney free throw ended a 5-0 Richmond run that pulled the visiting team within one point, the smallest deficit since the game was tied at 18 in the second.

McDougald hit a floater in the paint, and a suffocating full-court press defense by the Lady Raiders forced a handy turnover that Swiney laid in to tie the game at 32. Both teams traded another bucket to end the third stanza tied at 34.

But entering the fourth quarter was when the Lady Raiders lit the match that eventually burned out a tired, sloppy Jack Britt team.

Opening the last quarter on an impressive 11-2 run in the first two minutes, the Lady Raiders surged ahead and never looked back.

Junior guard Taliah Wall gave Richmond its final lead change that it wouldn’t surrender with a layup. On the next three possessions, Richmond struck gold from downtown, as McDougald, Miller and Swiney drained triples, respectively, to push the lead to nine points, 45-36, and forcing the Lady Bucs to call a timeout.

The favored home team would never recover, as McDougald and Swiney would continue to add fuel to the fire and combine to score all of Richmond’s final 13 points. The Lady Raiders held three different 13-point leads in the game’s closing minutes, their largest margin at any point during the night.

McDougald added another wide open three-pointer from the top of the arc following a turnover, and with Jack Britt forced to foul out of desperation, it sent Swiney to the line often. She proved true from the charity stripe, as she hit five of her eight free throw attempts in the quarter.

“We talked about having to stop fouling (in the first half) and taking control of the game,” McDonald said. “We attacked the basket the way we know that we can. And we attacked using our press defense, and they (Richmond’s players) did well with that.”

Monday’s meeting was the two teams’ third clash this year, with Jack Britt taking the first two by slim margins (45-44 on December 12, and 49-43 on January 26). But in the game that mattered most, Richmond kept its season alive.

Swiney notched a game-high 21 points, with McDougald adding 11 points in her debut. Love contributed eight points, and Miller and Tillman finished with six points each. Jack Britt had three scorers in double digits: Abston (11), Lauren Moore (11) and Hayes (10).

As SAC tournament play continues, McDonald and company will head to No. 2-seeded Lumberton High School on Wednesday. The Lady Pirates (21-4, 11-4 SAC) defeated No. 7-seeded Scotland 80-31 in Monday’s action. Richmond will look to stun Lumberton and senior guard London Thompson, who had a triple-double against Scotland (14 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists).

This will also be the third meeting between Richmond and Lumberton, with the Lady Pirates stealing both late-season games by scores of 47-39 (January 31) and 50-35 (February 2).

Last modified on Tuesday, 13 February 2018 08:18
Kyle Pillar

Sports Editor. IUP alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy. Sports guru. Eagle Scout. Motorcycle enthusiast. Pretend golfer. Avid reader. Pennsylvania native. 

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