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3rd quarter surge pushes Washington to victory, 1st conference win in two years

WASHINGTON — After a sluggish start on Wednesday, Washington found its rhythm in the third quarter, exploding for 28 points and cementing an insurmountable lead over South Lenoir, going on to win, 62-40, and picking up its first conference win in nearly two years.

The win, Washington’s third in a row, was the first in conference play for the Pam Pack since it defeated North Pitt, 82-70, on Jan. 24, 2017, a fact not lost on Washington head coach Lane Raper and his players.

“It’s huge for us,” Raper said. “It’s the first conference win; we didn’t have a conference win last year. So, it’s our first conference win in about two years. So, that’s really special for us in the locker room.”

Leading 26-22 at halftime, Washington (5-7, 1-3 2A Eastern Carolina Conference) played like a different team in the third quarter. Jamauri Bryant, who scored 13 points on the night, opened the period with an aggressive take to the basket, finishing with a layup. That seemed to set the tone for the Pam Pack, as it scored two more quick baskets to take a 32-22 lead just a minute into the third.

After failing to hit a shot from behind the arc through the first two quarters, Washington found its range in the third, sinking four 3-pointers in the quarter. Omarion Blount, who finished with a game-high 16 points, scored 11 points in the third to lead Washington’s run.

The Pam Pack also increased its defensive pressure, forcing turnover after turnover, leading to easy layups on the other end in transition. The Washington crowd grew louder and louder with every Pam Pack basket, and when the dust settled at the end of the quarter, Washington led, 54-24, after limiting South Lenoir (2-11, 0-4 2A ECC) to a single basket in the period.

The Pam Pack took its foot off the pedal a bit in the fourth quarter, scoring just eight points, while the Blue Devils had their most prolific period with 16 points. But Washington provided the highlight of the night in the final quarter. Blount caught a pass near the basket after breaking upcourt after a turnover, and while still in midair, set up Justin Powell for an alley-oop that brought the house down.

Slow starts have been almost standard for Washington this season, but Raper credited the Blue Devils for his team’s lackluster play early on.

“Tonight, it was a great job by South Lenoir,” Raper said. “I don’t know if this game plan was set up for us, but that was exactly what we don’t want. We don’t want the other team to go set up on defense and us walk the ball down the court. We have got to be a fast-tempo (team), and they slowed us down. (South Lenoir) Coach (Jeremy Barnett) realized it quickly. Every time that they made a shot, he had a sub in where we would have to stop and wait. He did a great job in the first half of controlling the game.”

With no games for a week due to exams, Washington will have plenty of time to practice prepare for its next opponent, Kinston. The Pam Pack will travel to take on the Vikings next Friday.