Lady Raiders thriving on familiarity

Published 11:47 pm Tuesday, December 5, 2017

BELHAVEN — Suffocating defense and spread-out offense helped Pungo earn its sixth win in its first seven games. The Lady Raiders did so in convincing fashion, too, by throttling Albemarle School, 56-11, in their Tar Heel Independent Conference opener.

Pungo’s hot start to the year can be attributed to the girls’ chemistry. It helps them move the ball on offense, which creates openings for the number of scorers on the floor. It also lends itself to an active defense that had its best showing thus far.

“I always say defense wins games and the rest will come after that,” coach Melanie Sawyer said. “They just work so well together. They played all summer in travel ball. They just gel. They know each other. I think that just helps.”

The eight-player roster boasts three seniors. Sawyer said they’ve provided leadership, but the Lady Raiders largely feed off of one another on the court.

The visitors got on the board first after nearly three minutes of scoreless action. Brinson Edmondson, on her birthday, answered back thanks to a dish by Katherine Williams. Rebecca Hodges and Emma Allen followed suit with baskets of their own to take a lead Pungo would only continue to build on throughout the game.

They were only three of the six Lady Raiders to get a bucket in the first quarter. Ashley Spencer, Emily Spencer and Lauren Kellie Ricks all scored, too. Ricks made it 13-3 at the end of the period when she drove in from the right side, finished a layup through contact and sank the free throw.

Pungo’s offense was able to attack a number of different ways. It was effective in transition opportunities created by its defense. Edmondson excelled in the post while Allen and Spencer added range with her shooting.

“It’s what makes the team. When you’ve got scoring the way we’ve been scoring in all these games, there’s not one person that’s dominant,” Sawyer said. “It’s been spread-out scoring. You’ve got to have that. You’ve got to have a balanced attack.

“It’s going to be hard to shutdown. We’ve got a lot of scorers. It’s going to be tough for people to defend that.”

Defensively, the Lady Raiders played a tight-checking game. Easy chances were few and far between for Albemarle. The Lady Colts, after scoring the game’s first basket, didn’t score again until a 3-pointer with 4:22 left in the second quarter. Meanwhile, Pungo’s offense outscored them 19-5 in the period to build a 32-8 halftime lead they were able to ride out.

The home crowd exploded when Williams, a hard-working senior, put home a pair of layups.

“She’s one of our seniors. She’s here and just loves being with the girls,” Sawyer said.

Pungo will remain at home Friday when it hosts Hobgood Academy.