By Brian Meadows
Editor’s note: This report is used by permission of the Statesville Record & Landmark.
Losing so one-sidedly in the North Piedmont Conference tournament semifinals last week left a bad taste in the mouth of North Iredell’s girls basketball team.
There was no time to dwell on it, though. Not with the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A state playoffs starting Tuesday night.
“That game is in the past,” senior Addie Pennell said when asked about the 39-20 loss to Statesville, a team the Raiders beat three times this season. “This is it right here. We have to give it all each time or it can end. We don’t want it to end.”
The Raiders (19-5), seeded eighth in the West, dispatched 25 seed North Buncombe (10-15) 61-32 in the opening round.
“When you come off a tough loss where you take one on the chin and you bounce back in a strong way, I think that speaks volumes,” North Iredell coach Roger Bumgarner said.
Rachel Lalonde tossed in a game-high 18 points to go with her five rebounds. With the Raiders leading 44-18 going into the fourth quarter, she got some early rest for the second round.
The BlackHawks, members of a conference featuring three of the top 10 3A teams in the state, trailed only 18-15 midway through the second quarter.
LaLonde’s second-chance bucket sparked an 8-0 Raiders run. Pennell played a pivotal role in helping them open up a bigger lead. She scored six of those points. Pennell converted a baseline layup before scoring in transition off a Julianna Walter steal and assist.
Pennell’s two free throws pushed the advantage to 26-15 with 1 minute, 19 seconds left in the half.
LaLonde boarded two of her missed shots and scored to extend the Raiders’ lead to 32-17 early in the third quarter. It only got worse from there for North Buncombe, which was outscored 14-1 in the third quarter and trailed by as many as 31 after halftime.
“We knew it would be tough for us to score against their zone,” said BlackHawks coach Tami Ramsey, who coached six seasons at North Iredell and led the Raiders to the 3A West region final in 2010 and ’11. “But we didn’t do what we practiced (Monday). We practiced moving the ball and attacking the zone.”
North Iredell 61, North Buncombe 32
NORTH BUNCOMBE (32): Karlyn Pickens 9, Cassie Plemmons 9, Chandler 5, Eubanks 4, Laws 2.
NORTH IREDELL (61): Rachel LaLonde 18, Ali Goodin 11, Bailey Barzee 11, Walter 9, Pennell 9, Guill 2, Guo 1.