Pinecrest, Richmond Advance to Final
Maybe the third time will be the first.
Pinecrest's girls' basketball team advanced to the finals of the holiday tournament it hosts for the third time Monday with a 75-48 win over Grace Christian of Sanford.
The Lady Patriots (5-4), who are still searching for their first championship in the Lady Patriot Holiday Invitational, will host Southeastern Conference foe Richmond Senior High tonight in the finals.
Richmond (6-0) advanced past Southern Lee with a 57-46 win Monday night.
Pinecrest extended a 19-10 first-quarter lead over Grace to 42-17 at halftime of the nightcap and sat its starters for much of the second half.
"They wanted to go back in," Pinecrest coach Alvita Thomas said of her regulars, "but we told them, 'Ya'll need to sit.' Richmond is a tough team, and they're a scrappy team, and they're going to be tough for us tomorrow."
The Lady Patriots never trailed against Grace and dominated the post, holding a 20-4 rebounding advantage after two quarters of play.
Guard Ashleigh McKenzie led Pinecrest with 17 points, including three 3-pointers, and five assists. Reserve forward Paige Horne was the only other Lady Patriot to score in double figures with 12 points.
Point guard Jennie Joy notched nine points, five steals and four assists, and Keegan Lynch and Lizzie Smith both had eight points apiece, with Lynch adding four steals and four assists. The team's leading scorer on the season, Candice Seagraves, scored only four points but grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
Grace (11-4) was led by 23 points from guard Haley Bryant.
Joy scored the first four points for Pinecrest, and McKenzie then assisted on four consecutive baskets as the Lady Patriots opened a 13-2 lead and extended it to 15-2 with a Janea Williams deuce.
"I think in the beginning we played really slow," Thomas said. "I told them to just run and play like we play, and then they picked it up a little bit."
Grace ended the first quarter with an 8-4 run, but Pinecrest outscored the Crusaders 23-7 in the second quarter.
Although Joy only played several minutes in the second half, she made her presence felt. After Grace scored the first three points of the third quarter, Joy notched steals on three consecutive Grace possessions. She assisted Cayla Herm after the first steal, and after the second led to a Megan Thomas layup, Joy set up Lynch for a layup with a behind-the-back pass to extend the Pinecrest lead to 48-20.
The Lady Patriots scored 30 points off 24 Grace turnovers in the game and led by as many as 35 points in the second half.
In the early game, Richmond took a 26-19 lead into halftime and opened the second half with a 12-2 run. The Raiders took their largest lead at 46-24 on a Shaquitta Corrington basket with 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Lashey Brown finished with 18 points to lead Richmond, Corrington added 11 and Torrie Ingram finished with 10.
Anelia Smith led Southern Lee (4-6) with 17 points, and Yasmine Butler added 13.
Pinecrest was defeated 53-34 by another Southeastern Conference foe, Scotland County, in last year's final. The only other time the Lady Patriots reached the championship game, they were defeated 42-35 by Union Pines. Richmond won the tournament in 2004.
Tonight's consolation game is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Pinecrest's James H. Moore Gymnasium, followed by the championship game at 6:30.
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