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In the not too distant past, the Greenfield School varsity girls basketball team struggled in terms of victories and having sufficient depth to overcome the normal bumps and bruises of a season.
But fast forward to the present day, and Lady Knights head coach Bruce Wall has a precedent to be proud of following his team’s 45-41 victory over Ridgecroft in the second round of the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A playoffs.
For the second straight year, the Lady Knights sit as one of the last eight teams remaining in the 1-A ranks.
Playing her last game at home, senior Kaelyn Wall sank a free throw with 3.6 seconds left to account for the final margin after freshman Kat Stanley, guarding the inbounds, deflected an intended pass down the length of the floor that was gathered by sophomore Fronzie Strohl prior to finding Wall for the Ridgecroft foul.
Greenfield, the No. 7 seed, moved to 15-11 and travels to No. 2 Burlington School on Saturday afternoon for the quarterfinal round.
“I’m overwhelmed proud,” Bruce Wall said. “At the end of the year, for the first year since I’ve been here, I’ve got 10 and 11 girls at practice this whole week. We haven’t had that. We’ve had six, seven girls. Those little things right there let me know that the program is going in the right direction. We’re proving that by getting to the final eight and getting big wins like this in the tournament — things they haven’t done in a long time.
The scoring load was again carried by eighth grader Serenity McNair and Kaelyn Wall, with McNair accounting for 21 points and presenting as a source of angst for Ridgecroft in the final minute with the ball in her hands.
Greenfield held a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, but Ridgecroft (17-13) didn’t go away and trimmed the lead to a single possession with a 7-0 run. Defensive help left the game when freshman Jeallen Holland picked up her fifth personal foul with 2:25 remaining.
Matters tensed further for the Lady Knights when, with a 43-39 lead, Greenfield botched a handoff along the baseline and turned it over out of bounds. Ridgecroft couldn’t take advantage, but in the effort to dribble out the clock, McNair was hit with a five-second closely guarded call that was turned into a jumper by Brooke Rose with 19.6 seconds to go, pulling the visitors within two at 43-41.
Strohl got the ball to Wall who was fouled and put on the line with 14.6 ticks left. She made one of two, setting up Stanley’s deflection on the ensuing inbound.
Wall, who has played multiple positions for Greenfield on the floor, turned more into a post in the second half for Greenfield and powered her way to an 8-for-12 showing from the line, all in the second half. She finished with a double-double that included 17 rebounds and six blocks. Greenfield pulled it out despite a 4-for-20 display from the 3-point line and an effort from the field that ticked below 30%. However, the Lady Knights were 11 for 19 from the foul line.
“I talked to her at halftime and said this is your last chance,” Bruce Wall said of his daughter. “Go out fighting. I saw her turn it on a little bit, and she really got aggressive on catching and snatching rebounds and going back up strong and taking the contact.”
Thus, Greenfield survived despite a tense final minute.
“For me personally, I didn’t have to calm any nerves,” McNair said. “I never became anxious over anything. I always knew we had it.”
Woodard 10, Daly, Brown 2, Taylor 5, Lane 11, Rose 10, Boswell 3.
McNair 21, Stanley, Wall 16, Strohl 5, Williams, Holland 3, Parker.
Score by quarters:
Ridgecroft 8 7 9 17 — 41
Greenfield 14 7 10 14 — 45