FAYETTEVILLE — Allexis Swiney may have finished Monday’s contest with the most points, but it was the efforts from a couple of call-ups that stood out in the Richmond girls basketball team’s first-round victory.
Freshman Jayla McDougald and sophomore Jordai Tillman spent the regular season on the Lady Raiders’ junior varsity squad that just wrapped up its season with a conference championship. On Monday, however, they played a huge part in helping the varsity team advance to the semifinal round of the Sandhills Athletic Conference Tournament.
McDougald scored 11 points, Tillman chipped in six and No. 6 Richmond upset No. 3 Jack Britt 58-47.
“They made all the difference in the game. They really stepped up big,” head coach Rosalind McDonald said. “It was surprising, but we had to keep them in the game because they were doing so great … that was what we needed.”
The two underclassmen entered the game in the second quarter and didn’t see much of the bench thereafter, as McDougald’s pressure on the defense led to numerous steals and layups on the other end of the floor. Tillman’s size in the paint altered many shots down low and helped her grab offensive and defensive rebounds.
Richmond (6-14) was still down at halftime, trailing 25-18, but opened the second half with a new energy. Sophomore guard Keionna Love hit a three-pointer to get things going and then Swiney laid the ball up to make it a one-score game.
Jack Britt (11-12) held on to its lead for as long as it could over the next few minutes, getting much-needed baskets from Alex Abston, NyQuela Bailey and Kelzie Wilburn. At the end of the third quarter, though, the game was knotted up at 34-all.
It didn’t look like the Lady Raiders were off to a good start in the final period, as senior guard Taliah Wall threw an inbounds pass that was deflected and almost stolen by the home team. But Wall was able to race inbounds, scoop the ball up and score her second and final bucket of the night.
From then on, it was all Richmond.
McDougald knocked down her first three-pointer of the night, sophomore Hailey Miller followed with one of her own, Swiney made a shot from beyond the arc and then McDougald hit another three following a turnover. And before Jack Britt knew it, the Lady Raiders had taken a 48-38 lead.
Both teams finished the game in the bonus and took turns at the foul line in the final minutes. Swiney and McDougald took care of the free throws for the away team, combining for eight made free throws down the stretch.
“I have always felt like we could have beat a lot of these teams early on, but it’s hard to beat a team three times in the same year,” McDonald said of her team’s first win over Jack Britt this season. “We just told them to play tough defense, do what we know how to do and the game will come to us — and luckily it did.”
Swiney poured in a game-high 21 points to lead the way for the Lady Raiders, Love hit two second-half threes on her way to a third-best eight points, Miller added six points and senior forward Saleemah Brown finished with two.
Richmond will look to keep its season alive when it travels to No. 2 seed Lumberton on Wednesday, which will also be the third meeting between the two teams.
“We’re just going to do the same thing we’re doing,” McDonald added.
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For stories, scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.