02/22/09 — Southern Wayne girls secure league's No. 3 seed

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Southern Wayne girls secure league's No. 3 seed

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on February 22, 2009 2:00 AM

KINSTON -- Intensity in postseason basketball is a requirement -- not an option.

Southern Wayne jumped on top of Eastern Wayne early and the Warriors waited a little too late to increase their energy level in a 52-34 loss in the third-place game of the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference girls' basketball tournament on Friday evening at Kinston High School.

The Saints (11-16) clinched the No. 3 seed and an opening-round date at Jacksonville in the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs, which start Tuesday. The Warriors (9-15) travel to perennial NEW 6 power Rocky Mount. Tip-off for both teams is 7 p.m.

Eastern Wayne sliced a 21-point halftime deficit to 12 midway through the fourth quarter. However, the Warriors got no closer as critical possessions failed to result in points down the stretch.

"It meant a lot more to them than it most have meant to us at the beginning," said Warriors head coach Brent Holland. "Southern Wayne came out and jumped on us early and we didn't respond very well in the first half. Hopefully we'll take it as a learning experience."

The Saints closed the ballgame on a 10-4 run and the victory erased the sting of a 22-point loss at Eastern Wayne earlier this season.

"They kept their composure real well for a long time," said Southern Wayne head coach Ricky Lofton. "Everybody stepped up and our guards handled the pressure real well."

The Warriors struggled to match up with the Saints underneath the basket. Saints forwards Clarice Sherard, Lynnesha Leonard and Kayla Powell dominated the boards.

Southern Wayne finished with a 23-9 advantage on the glass in the second half. Sherard scored 13 points and Powell added 10.

"When our big girls play well we're a lot tougher," said Lofton. "That's what we really want to do is go down in the paint."

Southern Wayne held Eastern Wayne to just nine first-half points while forcing turnovers and getting out in transition. Leonard scored 11 of her game-high 16 points during the first two quarters.

"I think we really wanted this game because when we played at Eastern Wayne we lost by 22," said Lofton. "I think that was a slap in our face because we knew we were better than that. They really stepped up."

Tia Jones paced the Warriors' offense with 10 points. Jazmine Middleton contributed nine points.