The historic season for the Lady Lions ended on Tuesday. After collecting 22 wins and a district championship, Pineville lost to South Laurel 59-43 in the opening round of the 13th Region tournament.
The Lady Lions were one win away for breaking the school’s record for most wins by a girls’ team.
Turnovers proved detrimental for Pineville. They turned the ball over 21 times with 12 coming in the first half. On the opposite end of the court, they only forced seven turnovers.
“Not being here hurts. Experience helps. We were so nervous,” said Pineville head coach Jamie Mills. “A lot of our turnovers were from inexperience. A lot of turnovers were just from nerves. I tried to settle them down and play more of a base, but we kept making some mistakes.”
“I’ve got to give them (South Laurel) credit. I was a little worried about their pressure.”
Pineville was led on both ends of the court by Shayne Raferty. She finished with a team-high 12 points and nine rebounds. Jillian Enix added nine points to the scoreboard while Autumn Short hauled in an additional five rebounds.
The duo of Shelby Davis and Ally Collett led the way for South Laurel. Davis finished with a game-high 16 points. Collett followed close behind with 15 points of her own. Taylor Cromer added 10 points for the Lady Cardinals.
South Laurel jumped out to a quick 6-1 lead early in the first following two baskets from Davis and a layup from Katie Reynolds. A Sarah Combs layup cut the lead to 6-3.
The Lady Cardinals extended their lead to 10-3 after another basket from Davis midway through the period. A 3-pointer from Enix cut the lead to four (10-6) moments later.
A 2-point basket from Raferty and subsequent free throws from Combs cut the South Laurel lead to 14-12 with 1:11 remaining in the first. Consecutive buckets from Phelps and Dianna Morgan extended the Lady Card lead to 18-12 at the end of the first.
South Laurel came out red hot in the second quarter. The Lady Cards opened the period on a 10-0 run that was capped by a Davis 3-pointer with just over five minutes to go, extending the lead to 28-12.
An Enix basket ended the run with Pineville trailing 28-14 at the 4:58 mark in the second. South Laurel countered with a Reynolds jumper to return the lead to 16.
Short scored consecutive layups to cut the deficit to 30-18 before the Lady Cards called a timeout with 4:04 remaining in the half. The two teams traded baskets for the remainder of the half with Cromer hitting a three at the buzzer to extend the South Laurel lead, 35-21.
“We could’ve cut it to 10 right there before half, and they hit a shot right there at the buzzer,” said Mills. “I told them to come back out and give it everything you got.”
The third quarter was a successful one for the Lady Lions. Pineville was able to hold the Lady Cards to just four points while doubling that amount on the opposite end of the court.
Raferty’s back-to-back baskets with 1:38 remaining in the period cut the lead to single digits, 37-29. A layup from Davis at the end of the quarter returned the lead to 10 (39-29) heading into the fourth.
Due to the deficit and South Laurel attempting to kill the clock, the Lady Lions were forced to foul throughout the final quarter. As a result of the Lady Cards efficient free throw shooting, South Laurel outscored Pineville 20-14 in the fourth to secure the victory.
“We made some mistakes, and we were rushing our offense. We knew we wanted to just get down in the paint on them,” said Mills. “When you turn it over before you get there, it’s tough. When we did get in our sets, we shot the ball at a high percentage. You’ve got to give their (South Laurel) pressure defense credit.”
Despite being eliminated from the regional tournament, the Lady Lions achieved success that the team hasn’t seen in many years.
“So many teams wanted to be here tonight. Even if they lost, they wanted to be here. It takes time to be here and learn to win here,” said Mills regarding the conversation he had with his team. “We’ve got to come back next year, and we’ve got to build on that.”
The Lady Lions lose two seniors this year: Shayne Raferty and Sophia Knuckles. Raferty ends the season averaging 8.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. She finishes her career shooting a team-high 53.8 percent from the field this year.
Knuckles finishes up her tenure at Pineville averaging 7.4 points per game this season.
Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN