A healthy Blake Smith made a big difference for the Braves on Friday night. And Kirstin Zanardo continuing her steady play didn’t hurt, either.
Smith had a game-high 19 points, Zanardo added 18, and the Socastee girls basketball team rolled past Carolina Forest 50-32.
“Offensively, I think Zanardo seemed to hit big shots when we really needed them,” Braves coach Ginger Ford said. “Also, we didn’t have Blake Smith in our last game against the Panthers and we won that game by two. Just by having Blake in the interior tonight really paced us.”
Socastee started on a 10-2 run in the first five minutes and closed the first quarter with a 12-8 advantage. Then, the Braves turned up the tempo in the second quarter, outscoring Carolina Forest 17-6 during the frame.
“We went on big runs. It would be great if we could put four quarters together, though,” Ford said. “We did turn up the pressure in the second quarter and I think that made a difference.
“For the most part I think the players did what we asked them to do and Carolina Forest made a little bit of a run, we had a 15-point lead and had a little scoring drought and they brought it to 12, we pushed it back up. They had 3s and we talked about paying attention to the 3-pointers. I think it was a huge team effort.”
The bright spot for the Panthers was when Marisa Runyon nailed a 3-pointer with 29 seconds left in the first quarter to eclipse the 1,000 career point mark in her career. Runyon finished with a team-high 12 points and grabbed six rebounds.
“The highlight was Marisa scoring her 1,000th point,” Carolina Forest coach Stacy Hughes said of Runyon, who also stars in softball. “We’re proud of her, especially for a two-sport athlete, and with this being her secondary sport. So we’re happy with that.”
The Panthers split the third quarter with Socastee at nine points apiece, but couldn’t get back in the game. Ashleigh Turner contributed 10 points for Carolina Forest.
“It was tough,” Hughes said. “Our inexperience plays a big part in our game. We didn’t really bring much intensity so it was disappointing. We left girls wide open all night. I wish we had a little more experience but as long as we’re getting better every week, I’ll be happy.”
Meanwhile, Ford continually said that her team has improved since its Christmas tournament in Wilmington.
“I thought we did a better job on the boards and we worked the ball real well and hit some open looks,” Ford said. “We scored some in the paint, we’ve been lacking that a little bit. They just came together as a team for a common goal. I haven’t seen that at Socastee until our Christmas tournament in Wilmington.
“I’m proud of my team for hanging in there. And for coming back and listening and do what we asked them to do. I think we played with a little more poise than we had been.”• SOCASTEE (50) – Blake Smith 19, Kira Bell 7, Sydney Wortham 2, Madison Lowe 2, Mia Angelo 2, Kirstin Zanardo 18.
• CAROLINA FOREST (32) – Cheyenne Pyles 5, Cristina Wright 2, Alexis Tomlin 1, Kia Brisbon 2, Marisa Runyon 12, Ashleigh Turner 10.
• Records: Socastee 9-5, Carolina Forest 3-10