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If ever the underdog Greenfield School varsity girls basketball team was provided an opportunity for a huge upset, visiting Trinity Christian of Fayetteville opened the door of opportunity Saturday afternoon in the Greenfield gym in the third round of the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A tournament.
But the Lady Crusaders, the No. 2 seed and the scourge of the Sandhills Athletic Conference, possessed two much quickness and athleticism and, despite three less-than-inspired quarters, ended No. 7 Greenfield’s season by a 52-27 margin.
The quarterfinal was played at Greenfield because NCISAA probation prohibits Trinity from playing home games in the playoffs. Both teams exited in the quarterfinals last season.
The Lady Knights, No. 2 from the 1-A/2-A Coastal Plain Independents Conference, exited with a 16-8 mark, while Trinity advanced into next week’s semifinals in Raleigh with a 16-6 worksheet.
“We knew, coming in, we had to play a perfect game,” commented Greenfield head coach Bruce Wall. “We played hard for 32 minutes; they were just faster and bigger. But at the beginning, it looked like they were the lower-seeded team. I am proud of them. A great season and another step in the right direction.”
However, the Lady Crusaders promptly discovered Greenfield possessed only a pair of willing shooters in junior Kaelyn Wall and pint-sized seventh-grader Serenity McNair, and applied defensive wraps upon the pair.
“That makes it hard to get into any type of offense,” Wall conceded.
The scheme enabled Trinity to withstand 14-of-59 shooting (24 percent) the first three quarters and 11 turnovers. Still, Trinity, coming off a double bye and playing for the first time in the postseason, was not taxed because Greenfield hit just 9-of-40 shots for 22 percent and committed 36 turnovers that resulted from lazy passes and excessive dribbling. Trinity wound up with a 44-34 rebounding margin.
“We underestimated them,” Lady Crusaders head coach Charles Tubbs admitted. “We came out thinking we had the game won even before it started. We had to get ourselves together. You have to be very, very patient with them.”
Greenfield was limited to one field goal each of the first two quarters. Leading 5-4, Trinity, sparked by sophomore Lavaviah Armstead, tossed in 14 unanswered points before Wall, Greenfield’s leading scorer, finally sank a free throw. Wall was without a field goal until hitting a shot just beore the halftime buzzer.
Only three Lady Knights attempted shots the first half and their offense opened up the third quarter when Wall’s playmaking involved eighth-grader Jeallen Holland and McNair, who was unable to see over her much taller defender. Still, Greenfield drew no closer than 36-22 at the end of the third quarter.
Trinity then flashed its No. 2 mettle in the fourth quarter with effective transition, hitting six of its first nine shots from the floor. en route to a 14-0 start.
“If we play like that, I don’t think many teams can beat us,” Butts contended.
Armstead paced Trinity with a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds. Sophomore Denise Smith added a double-double of 11 points and 13 rebounds. Senior Kyla Kincy claimed 10 rebounds.
Wall, who reached the 1,000-point career scoring plateau in Thursday’s win, worked for a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds. McNair added nine points and Holland scored the other five. Sumer Hassan, the only senior, did not attempt a shot but grabbed eight rebounds. Junior Carolina Stone pulled down seven.
A prolific scorer early in her Greenfield career, Hassan prides herself in her rebounding and utilizing her experience to benefit the Lady Knights in other areas. Bruce Wall lauded his only senior as invaluable as his assistant coach.
“I still do my job,” she asserted. “The one thing I know I can do is rebound — that’s my sole job. Also, I don’t get the ball that much. We’ve gone from a down-low scoring team to our guards doing a lot of the shooting.”
Of her final Greenfield game, Hassan responded: “We knew the odds were not in our favor. But we knew we had to give it our all. We played hard for 32 minutes and I think that shocked the other team because they didn’t think we were going to come out and play as hard as we did. We had turnovers, but they put a lot of pressure on us and made us have turnovers.”
Bruce Wall jokingly suggested the Lady Knights’ “sugar rush ran out.” He was referring to the fact all the players joined his daughter in munching on an oatmeal cake before Thursday’s game and Kaelyn continued the pregame gesture on Saturday.
Added Hassan: “I absolutely hate I’m leaving. We’ve done so much with a seventh-grader at point guard. A lot of teams have juniors and seniors on the bench and we have only what I call babies. But they might have a 16-8 record — the same as ours. Win or lose, I can take that home.
“And this team hasn’t hit any ceiling yet. It’s not done rising.”
TRINITY CHRISTIAN (52)
Teague 4, Armstead 14, Smith 11, Hooker 3, Vandevender, Murphy 7, Brooks, Smith, Dedeaux, Kincy 2, Smith 10, Elerby, Ray 1.
Williams, McNair 9, Stone, Wall 13, Holland 5, Godwin, Worrell, Parker.
Score by quarters:
Trinity Christian 9 16 11 16 — 52
Greenfield 4 4 14 5 — 27