North Lenoir girls win first home playoff game in years, advance to second round
LA GRANGE — First the first time in years, the North Lenoir girls basketball team got to host a first round playoff game on Tuesday night.
The Hawks hosted the No. 20-seeded Wildcats of Richlands, a team that went 17-7 in their season. The 13th-seeded Hawks lived to played again as they topped the Wildcats, 54-41.
“This win feels really good,” Integrity McPhail, who scored 11 points for North Lenoir, said. “We’re going to take this opportunity and run with it as far as we can take it.”
The Wildcats came out strong, scoring 14 points in the first quarter, all by Morgan Ervin with eight points and Kiki Kornegay with six.
“We knew those two girls could shoot. Our goal was to keep them from making good quality shots as much as we could,” Hawks coach Howard Wooley said. “They are a great team from the free throw line. We denied them those opportunities by playing smart ball. We used our defense to pressure them and transition any turnovers into points.”
North Lenoir had answers as McPhail scored eight points in the first quarter, including two 3-pointers. Ashanti Lynch also scored seven of her game-high 21 points in the first. North Lenoir held a 21-14 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
McPhail hit another 3-pointer in the second as the Hawks built their lead to be ahead 33-24 at halftime.
“I feel that we executed the way that we should have,” Lynch said. “We played hard. We moved the ball well. We also lifted each other up if we missed a shot or made a bad play. We also played smart and didn’t allow ourselves to make fouls.”
Scoring dropped off in the second half and North Lenoir’s Janiya Jones spearheaded the Hawks’ defense with four blocks and eight rebounds.
“We moved our feet well on defense and communicated to each other,” Jones said. “The coach said that they are good from the line. We just did our best to play tough, but not get into foul trouble.”
Richlands coach Michael Kelly was disappointed with his team’s effort.
“We simply could not recover from that first half,” he said. “We played well in the second half, but they are a very good defensive team. The screened us out well and were tough. I’m proud of our girls. We had a good season, but it is still disappointing to lose and end a season like this.”
With the win, North Lenoir will travel to Durham on Thursday night to face N.C. School of Science and Math. NCSSM, undefeated in 30 contests and the No. 4 seed, defeated South Lenoir on Tuesday, 56-32.
“We’re gonna work hard our defense, get focused in practice, and continue to work on all of those little things that matter,” Wooley said. “ I give credit to my girls. This was the first playoff game for most of them. This is a new experience for them and they handled it well.”
RICHLANDS: Kornegay 15, Ervin 10, Hamilton 7, Repp 6, Ashley 3
NORTH LENOIR: A. Lynch 21, McPhail 11, E. Lynch 10, Jones 4, Taylor 4, Sparrow 4