Lady Red Devils get through Bunker Hill in 3rd game of series battle, 60-55; advanced to Dick’s Sporting Goods Classic Final

n this file photo from Friday, December 27, Lady Red Devils’ senior center Chyna Cornwell (54) pushes through the St. Stephens’ defender in the first-round win of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Classic. (O-N-E File Photo by Brian Hendrix)
Marcus Smith
Sports Editor

Following first-round blowout victories in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Classic for the Newton-Conover Lady Red Devil and Bunker Hill Lady Bears’ basketball teams, the two collided for part three of their ill-fated feud in the second-round on Saturday, December 28 at CVCC’s Tarlton Complex.

In the pair’s previous match-up on Dec. 10, the Lady Red Devils (8-1) narrowly escaped at home after senior forward Jahlea Peters knocked down a clutch free-throw with three-tenths of a second remaining to win, 52-51.

The two also opened the 2019 season at Bunker Hill High School in which the Lady Red Devils managed to get away from that one, as well, defeating the Lady Bears, 64-59.

With Dick’s Sporting Good’s Classic championship implications at the surface, this already heated match-up got even more intense. The Lady Red Devils earned a 60-55 victory over Bunker Hill.

“It was everything we expected,” said Newton-Conover head coach Sylvia White. “Bunker Hill’s a very good team. They play hard. They don’t ever quit. We knew it was going to be a hard, tough game. We knew it could probably go either way just like the other two we played. So, we were just excited and fortunate to come out with a win.”

This contest began as a stalemate as the game was tied at 18-all after the first quarter. In that quarter alone, Lady Red Devils’ senior center Chyna Cornwell already had six rebounds – four on the offensive glass. The guard play of freshman Cassidy Geddes and senior Aaliah Walton was apparent as the duo earned six points and five points, respectively. Geddes also chimed in with four assists in the quarter.

Walton finished the game with eight points while Geddes had 12 points – including a trio of makes from beyond the arc – seven rebounds and six assists.

As for the Lady Bears, junior guard Addie Wray and sophomore forward Faith Isenhour led their team in scoring in the first period with seven and five points apiece. The intensity only picked up from there and the second quarter finished the same way the first did with a tie at 35-all.

Going into the break, Cornwell already collected a double-double with 13 points and 15 rebounds while Wray led the Lady Bears with 12 points.

Cornwell also established her own history as she obtained her 2,000th career point in the second quarter to much acclaim from her family and the fans in attendance.

“It just speaks for itself,” said White. “How many high school players scored 2,000 points, and we got 20-something games to play. Chyna Cornwell’s just an amazing athlete. She’s made herself into a great basketball player. She works hard. She’s well deserving, but you know it takes her teammates to get her the ball. I’ll bet 30-40 percent of her points is because how hard she works on the boards and gets putbacks, and that’s her.”

Scoring wasn’t really the issue for Bunker Hill, though. The main concern that plagued it throughout was the inability to capitalize at the charity stripe. The Lady Bears left many points off of the board due to free-throw woes (14-for-28), especially in crunch time in the fourth quarter.

The Lady Red Devils already controlled the glass as three players (Cornwell, Grace Loftin and Peters) cracked double-figures on the boards. The Lady Red Devils outrebounded the Lady Bears, 56-28. Cornwell finished with 19 rebounds (10 on offense), Loftin and Peters each collected 10.

Peters also finished with 10 points to give herself a double-double, as well. Cornwell finished with 21 points.

So, given that, Bunker Hill had to convert its chances at the line.

The Lady Bears’ first-year head coach Lee Swanson said that his team missed a few free-throws, but the turning point of the game was when senior forward Maddie Stotts picked up her final foul in the third quarter. At that time, Stotts obtained five points (including a three) and seven rebounds. She was also the best free-throw shooter on the night as she went 3-of-4.

With her out of the game, Isenhour and Wray stepped up as the pair finished with 16 and 18 points, respectively, and the Lady Bears even took a 44-43 lead into the final period.

Another crucial moment in the second half was when Cornwell fouled out in the final frame with about three minutes left in the contest. The Lady Red Devils only held about a four-point cushion as sophomore center Emma Fox entered as Cornwell’s replacement.

Fox did her job on the glass and defensively to help Loftin hold off scoring down low. Fox finished with two points, one assist, two rebounds and a blocked shot.

“Emma’s been a starter for us and you know we don’t have five starters,” said White. “We look at who we’re playing and try to figure out who we match-up against defensively best. We feel like our offense can play against anybody, but sometimes defensively if we go three bigs it’s a little tougher to defend a team like Bunker hill who’s so big around the perimeter. So, I knew Emma would be ready. I knew she’d be ready when her time came...She’s a sophomore and playing like an upperclassman sometimes.”

The Lady Red Devils went on a 17-11 run to earn the victory over Bunker Hill and advance to the Dick’s Sporting Goods Classic championship. The Lady Red Devils take on Hickory tonight at 7 p.m. in a rematch from last season's Classic Final.