RAEFORD — Hoke’s JaTeria Wells decided to wait until the last minute to make her presence felt.
Actually the last 19 seconds.
Wells recorded the go-ahead layup after a steal and notched another theft seconds later to seal her team’s 57-54 win over Richmond Senior Friday night. It was the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
“I felt like we needed something,” Wells said. “It was hustle defense.”
Wells only scored four points in the victory, but Hoke coach Tiffany Parks said the junior did a lot of little things to help the team.
“She had five steals and four assists,” Parks said. “From her that’s pretty good. I told the team that Courtney (Pate) was going to pressure their point guard because she wasn’t doing a good job handling it and for them to go after the pass.”
After Wells’ first steal put the Bucks (3-11, 1-0) in front 56-54 with 19 seconds remaining, the Raiders called timeout. On the inbounds pass in front of the Richmond bench, Wells grabbed the ball and passed to Pate who was quickly fouled.
“I wanted to make sure 14 (Shaquail Wall) didn’t get the ball,” Wells said. “I told myself to get the ball if it’s loose and hold onto it because there was just 13 second left.”
Pate hit one of two from the free-throw line, giving Richmond (6-4, 0-1) a small chance to force overtime. Kivana Keane tried to tie the game with a 3-pointer from the left wing, but her shot was partially blocked by Alyssa Thompson. It was the only field goal the Raiders attempted in the final 1:35 of the game.
“Turnovers, missed free throws, missed layups,” Richmond coach Victoria DeFrate said. “That was the story of the game.”
Richmond led 54-51 with 51.5 remaining in the contest when Sarah Maske hit one of two free throws before Symone Thompson scored on a putback 20 seconds later to set up Wells’ heroics.
DeFrate was pleased with the play of Lecie Griffin and Maske, especially in the fourth quarter. The duo combined to score half of the team’s points in the final frame.
“They are dependable girls when you need them,” DeFrate said. “They’re the type of girls that play hard for you even if they make a mistake.”
Shanice Horne scored 13 points to lead the way for the Bucks and Pate added 11. Wall was the lone Raider in double figures, scoring 13.
Richmond will action to action 6 p.m. Friday when it plays host to Lumberton.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.