The Lady Raiders did just that Friday night, topping those same Lumberton Lady Pirates, 54-44 at Raider Gymnasium to head into next week’s NCHSAA Class 4A state playoffs on a winning note.
With the victory, Richmond improved to 22-2 on the season. Lumberton fell to 17-7.
After defeating the Lady Pirates by double-digit margins in both of their previous meetings this season, it was apparent from the opening tip that the Lady Raiders were going to have their hands full this time out.
Lumberton got out to a quick 6-0 lead in the game’s opening two minutes. But the Lady Raiders scored the next two points to get on the board and cut the Lumberton advantage to two.
The Lady Pirates got a trifecta on their next possession to get back out to a 9-4 advantage. But Richmond scored the game on five straight points by Demi Watkins - a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws, sandwiched around a steal.
Richmond edged out to a thin 12-11 lead at the first stop.
Leading 16-15 with about three minutes left in the first half, Richmond closed with a 5-1 spurt to take a 21-16 lead into the dressing room.
The Lady Raiders began to pull away in the third quarter, when they led by as many as 14 points.
Lumberton was able to cut the Richmond lead to seven at 44-37 midway through the fourth quarter, but Richmond weathered the Lady Pirates run and quickly got back out to a 16-point lead at 54-38.
Lumberton coach Danny Graham was pleased with his team’s effort, but not its execution.
“We couldn’t make shots when we needed to,” Graham said. “Richmond’s got a good team. I’m not saying they’re a state championship team, but they’ve got a good team.”
For Richmond coach Nellie Harrington, the victory wrapped up another team goal and put an exclamation on this part of the season.
“I’m very proud of the girls,” Harrington said after being doused with Gatorade by her girls in the postgame celebration. “It was a total team effort. Give credit to Lumberton. They battled us all night.”
Demi Watkins led Richmond with 20 points. I’Teionna McLaughlin had 13 and freshman center Jade Evans added nine off the bench.
Keana McNeill led the Lady Pirates with 11 points.
The Lady Raiders host Knightdale Monday night at 6 p.m. in a first-round playoff contest. Lumberton will also host a first-round playoff contest against an opponent to be determined.
Contact sports editor David Vantress at 997-3111, ext. 14 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.