SUMTER — They cut down the nets, hugged, cried and high-fived. Then the Pinewood Prep girls hoisted the championship trophy. This scene has become a late-February tradition at the Sumter Civic Center.
Pinewood Prep defeated Heathwood Hall, 57-50, on Saturday night to capture its third straight SCISA Class AAA state basketball championship and fourth in five years.
Six seniors — Raygon Hendrix, Bri Boyd, Kaitlyn Dambaugh, Maria Corella, Jennifer Rhodes and Jazlyn Hooks played in the final game together and went out winners.
“That’s a special group,” Pinewood coach Nancy Beatty said. “I can’t put in words how much they bring to practice, how much pride they bring to Pinewood Prep.”
Heathwood (20-8) might have the best junior in the country in Aja Wilson, but it takes a total team effort to win the crown.
“They are veterans,” Heathwood coach John O’Cain said of the playoff savvy Panthers. “They definitely played better as a team than we did. You have to play as a team at this stage of the season. This wasn’t one of our better games, but Pinewood had something to do with that.”
Wilson had 29 points, but she was the only Highlander in double figures.
“I am proud of what (Wilson) brings to the game,” Beatty said. “But it takes a whole team. We play together as a team.”
Pinewood Prep (27-4) had three players in double digits. Hendrix had 15, Dambaugh 12 and Corella 11.
Hendrix, a 5-3 point guard, was the difference. She distributed the ball, scored and caused turnover after turnover. She disrupted Heathwood Hall’s offensive flow.
“Division I schools, collectively, will not look at her because they say she’s too short,” Beatty said. “But she works harder than anybody. She is so, so special. She’s the catalyst of our team and it starts with her. It takes a point guard to make a team great.”
The teams were tied at halftime, but Pinewood Prep made adjustments and outscored the Highlanders 18-12 in the decisive third quarter.
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
Records: PP 27-4, Heathwood Hall 20-8.