4-A GIRLS: Pirates cruise, still sailing in playoffs
E.E. Smith forward Azha McNeil had no trouble pinpointing the cause of the Golden Bulls’ 76-56 loss to Riverside on Friday.
“We should have come out more aggressive than we did,” the senior said. “We didn’t jump on them as aggressively as we should.”
The Bulls, in fact, opened the game on a 5-0 run before collapsing under Riverside’s high-powered offense.
The third-round loss ends the Bulls’ run in the 4-A playoffs.
No. 19 Riverside has become a Cinderella story in the bracket. The Pirates (19-8) traveled to Smith after knocking off No. 14 Greenville Conley and No. 3 Cary in the first two rounds.
Riverside will meet No. 2 Southeast Raleigh (24-2) in the Eastern Regional semifinal round Thursday at Crown Coliseum.
The Bulls trailed by a point at 15-14 to start the second quarter.
The Pirates rolled in the second frame, outscoring the Bulls 23-13 on a barrage of transition baskets and 3-point goals.
Guards Kiara Jacobs and Zaria Rogers led the Pirates, scoring 22 and 18 points, respectively.
Jacobs sparked the offense from the perimeter, finishing the night with five 3-pointers.
Bulls’ guard Alecia Hardy had a team-high 17 points.
“I think Riverside came out with the same intensity we did, and we were able to handle it up until a point,” Hardy said. “Then we starting backing down and not driving in the middle. That hurt us.”
Riverside held a 38-27 lead at halftime and stretched it to as much as a 25-point deficit late in the fourth quarter.
The Bulls switched to a press late in the game, but Smith couldn’t quite coordinate on defense, and the Pirates continued to push the ball, drawing fouls along the way.
Riverside wasn’t particularly successful from the free-throw line, shooting 60 percent in the game. But the Pirates had 21 chances on foul shots in the final quarter.
Smith coach Dee Hardy said a week’s worth of games might have been a cause of the Bulls’ sluggish play.
“We were out early from the conference tournament, so we had a few days off,” Hardy said. “But this is our third game this week, and as an uptempo team, I wonder if maybe fatigue was part of it.”
Hardy complimented the Pirates’ accuracy on the night.
“Riverside hit a lot of shots. I felt like they were hot,” Hardy said. “And we missed some shots that normally fall for us. And sometimes when you’re working with young people, it’s hard for them to make the adjustment.”
Jaclyn Shambaugh may be reached at email@example.com.
NO. 19 RIVERSIDE 76, NO. 6 E.E. SMITH 56
Riverside 15 23 19 19 — 76
E.E. Smith 14 13 13 16 — 56
RIVERSIDE — Zaria Rogers 18, Andrea’Anna Poole 8, Shayla Moody 12, Atlanta Woodall 6, Kiara Jacobs 22, Moné Jones 10.
E.E. SMITH — Alecia Hardy 17, Jasmyne May 5, Rayvin Griffin 6, Jakeyah McNeil 10, Sheequa Williams 2, Arielle Wilson 4, Tyme Crumble 2, Azha McNeil 10.
Records — Riverside 19-8, Fayetteville E.E. Smith 20-6.