Seniors lead Lady Panthers to third straight state title

  • Wednesday, February 27, 2013

After cutting the net down at the Sumter Civic Center Saturday, the Lady Panthers basketball team celebrates its third consecutive state championship at mid-court. PROVIDED

A special group of athletes put the finishing touch on their Pinewood Prep basketball legacy Saturday in Sumter.
Pinewood seniors Raygon Hendrix, Brianna Boyd, Katelyn Dambaugh, Maria Corella, Jenifer Rhodes and Jazlyn Hooks led the Lady Panthers basketball team to a 57-50 win over Heathwood Hall during the 2013 SCISA AAA Girls’ Championship Game. The win marks the third consecutive state championship the team’s Class of 2013 has claimed.
“These girls have so much talent among them plus they have such great chemistry,” Pinewood coach Nancy Beatty said. “They all had their own individual goals this year but since the beginning of the season collectively our goal was to cut down the net at the state tournament.”
However, the third championship didn’t come easy. Heathwood’s Aja Wilson is one of the top juniors in the country and she scored 29 points in the championship game.
The teams entered the half tied. Then Pinewood outscored the Highlanders 18-12 in the third period and held on for the win.
“It was not our best game,” Beatty said. “In the first half I was frustrated with our lack of movement. I think we were intimidated by Aja, which is understandable. We got good looks but didn’t knock enough shots down.”
Pinewood took 15 three-point shots in the first two periods but only sank four of them. However, the 3s began falling for Pinewood in the second half.
“Maria hit a 3 early in the third period and then I knew we would be OK,” Beatty said. “That sparked a little run and helped me relax. I think that helped the girls relax.”
Dambaugh also hit some jumpers in the second half and finished the game 4 of 7 for shots from behind the arch. Hendrix, who hit 10 of 10 free throws in the fourth period, led the Pinewood scorers with 15 points. Dambaugh finished with 12 points and Corella added 11 for the Panthers.
The Panthers improved to 27-4 on the season with the win while Heathwood dropped to 20-8.
It is a fitting end to a year that saw the Panthers go 12-0 in region play for the program’s first undefeated mark in the conference and in which all five Pinewood starters signed to participate in college athletics. Dambaugh signed a golf scholarship while Hendrix, Boyd, Corella and Rhodes signed with college basketball programs. In preseason tournaments Pinewood held its own against teams that featured Division 1 talent.
Corella and Boyd both surpassed the 1,000-point scored benchmark for their Pinewood careers this season. Hendrix, Corella and Rhodes served as the team’s captains. But Beatty says all six seniors made hefty contributions this year.
“Katelyn and Bri are role players who always shows up ready to play,” the coach said. “Jaz didn’t get as much playing time, but she was like a team mom. She helped everyone else out and kept spirits high. She also had some good performances on the court. Her rebounding was big for us at times and she put some points on the board.”
Beatty says one of the things she will remember this year’s senior class for the most is its unselfishness.
“At one point during the season I wanted to get some of our younger players some experience so I told our captains I wanted to start another five the next game,” Beatty said. “They all thought it was a great idea. For them to not be worried about their stats in that situation says so much about their character. Also, whether they are on the floor or in the classroom they are all top-notch student athletes.”
The Pinewood girls have claimed four state championships in the past five seasons. Beatty is hoping the examples this year’s seniors set will lead to future success.
“We have some rebuilding to do next year, but at least we don’t have to build from the ground up,” she said. “These six players pushed everyone on the team and the other players have benefitted from practicing against them. Plus, because the kids returning went through the journey to Sumter with them they now know what level they need to play at and practice at. They know what it takes to get where they want to go.”
Heathwood Hall (50): Wilson 29, Ress 6, Turberville 1, Dickerson 7, Joseph 5, Lefft 2.
Pinewood Prep (57): Hendrix 15, Dambaugh 12, Paylor 5, Corella 11, Rhodes 9, Boyd 5.
Heathwood Hall 11 13 12 14—50
Pinewood Prep 13 11 18 15—57
Contact Roger Lee @ 873-9424 ext. 213 or rlee@journalscene.com

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