Plymouth pulls out another playoff win
By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
PLYMOUTH — On Southeast Halifax’s first possession of the game, point guard Ashley Wright streaked down the court and dribbled around defenders like she was racing through a cones drill, then whipped a behind-the-back pass to Candace Arrington for a would-be easy layup; though Arrington missed the shot the message to Plymouth was clear: The Vikings would need more than a good press if it wanted to beat the Trojans.
The top seeded Vikings did everything a good postseason team needs to do on Thursday as it clamped down on second seeded Halifax with a stingy halfcourt defense, survived a late Trojan run and made big shots when it counted to take a 52-46 win in the third round of the state tournament.
Though Wright gave the Plymouth press fits all night, it was still effective. The Vikings (18-2) jumped out to an early 16-7 first quarter lead thanks to its ability to create turnovers and capitalize on them.
The Vikings’ defense brought the crowd to its feet midway through the first quarter when Whitney Stokes stripped the ball from the Trojans as they attempted to bring it up court, dove to the floor to recover it, and from the ground whipped a bounce pass to a cutting Sakina Brown to take an 8-3 lead.
Halifax (14-9) adjusted to the press in the second quarter, and led by the play of Wright and Arrington, out-scored Plymouth 12-8 to go into halftime down 24-19.
The Trojans came out of the break on fire as Wright, their 5-5 bottle of lightning led Halifax on an 8-2 run. At times unguardable, Wright blew by defenders and buried pull-up jumpers to rally her team back from its five point deficit.
Halifax took the lead when Wright stripped the ball from Plymouth and went coast-to-coast to take a 27-26 advantage.
The lead was Halifax’s first of the game, and with the season on the line for the Vikings, they made sure it would be their last.
Reduced to halfcourt play, the Plymouth offense was stagnant throughout the second quarter and the beginning of the third, but Brown changed all that late in the third.
Playing on bad ankle which was injured in Tuesday night’s game against Camden, Brown delivered a gutsy performance on Thursday. After Ashley Dance nailed a pair of clutch free throws to make the score 28-27 Plymouth, Brown drilled two consecutive 17-footers to give Plymouth five point cushion with 3:50 left to go in the third.
Brown also hit a huge 3-pointer from the right wing two minutes later to put Plymouth up 38-32.
Brown wasn’t the only one to have a big third quarter, Stokes stepped up her play as well, delivering seven of her team-high 25 points to help put the Vikes back on top.
Brown tallied nine points in the third and finished with 17 points for the game.
The Trojans were no where near packing it in, and in the fourth quarter made a serious run to try and take back the lead. Wright put up nine of her game-high 26 points in the final eight minutes and brought her team within a 48-45 deficit of Plymouth with 1:45 left in the game.
Halifax was gaining momentum until Stokes put a stop to it with a tremendous fourth quarter. The senior guard scored six of the team’s final 10 points and broke the Trojans’ back by nailing two big free throws that made the score 50-45 with a little over a minute left to play.
Brown put the finishing touch on the Trojans when she sank a pair of free throws with :30 left to play to close out the scoring at 52-46.
The Vikings’ next game will be on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. when they play Gates County at Northside High School.
Southeast Halifax 7 12 15 12 — 46
Plymouth 16 8 18 10 — 52
Southeast Halifax (46)
Ashley Wright 26, Candace Arrington 13, M. Wright 3, McDaniel 5, Hunter 2.
Whitney Stokes 25, Sakina Brown 17, Sutton 4, Young 2.