First Posted: 1/15/2009
PEMBROKE -- Forget the monkey, this was more like a 400-pound gorilla.
Two-time defending Christ-mas Classic runner-up Red Springs finally shook the ape off its back, holding on to defeat Lumberton 47-40 in the Classic championship Saturday at the Jones Athletic Center on the campus of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
It was the third straight year the two squads clashed in the title game. Last year, the Lady Devils came close but fell in overtime as the Pirates reeled in an unprecedented third straight Classic title.
Their bid for four straight fell short due largely to Red Springs forward Tenisha McArthur. The 5-foot-11 senior dominated the paint en route to a game-high 26 points and tourney most valuable player honors.
McArthur shot out of the gates like a thoroughbred, scoring the Lady Devils' first 10 points of the game on 5-of-7 shooting. Overall, she connected on 11-of-24 attempts while chipping in 10 rebounds and two blocks.
“This feels great,” McArthur said. “I knew it would be hard for us because we were playing Lumberton, so I wanted to step up my play tonight. I knew we were going to have to have it down the line at some point.”
Despite McArthur's performance, Red Springs (9-0) nearly gave the game away late.
Nursing a 41-31 lead with under three minutes remaining, the Lady Devils found it wasn't going to be so easy to pry the title away from the Lady Pirates' collective grasp.
Back-to-back baskets from Lumberton guard Anna Evans cut the deficit to five, then teammate Sierra Brooks pulled the same stunt to nudge the Pirates within one with under a minute to play.
However, a three-point play from Lynn McRae on the ensuing possession saved Red Springs from the collapse.
Lady Devils head coach Eva Patterson-Heath was hardly in a celebratory mood afterward.
“We made this more difficult than it had to be,” said Patterson-Heath, whose team had a 29-20 lead at the half. “I felt like we had the better team, but my A-team didn't show up again tonight. Maybe it will feel better tomorrow, or maybe later on tonight, but we just tried to give it away. We didn't play hard, we didn't play smart, but we were able to pull it out in the end.”
According to Lumberton court boss Danny Graham, Mc-Arthur was too much for the Pirates' defense to handle.
“Her presence on the floor was probably the difference in the game,” he said. “She just dominated the inside. She's a really good player. But I'm proud of our kids and the way we played tonight. We go them to play our tempo, and we almost stole on late.”
Jim Stamm can be reached at 739-4322, Ext. 118 or by e-mail at [email protected]