Lower Richland moved to the third round of the Class 3A state girls basketball playoffs with a 69-48 win against Walhalla on Thursday at The Diamond Mine.
The bonus is the undefeated, second-ranked Diamond Hornets (23-0) will have a quarterfinal home game against Daniel on Monday, courtesy of the Lions’ 82-56 upset of Greenville.
“We knew Walhalla has some really good shooters, but we struck with our plan on defense and it really paid off,” LR coach Debbie Stroman said.
The defensive pressure scripted by Stroman featured a mix of man and zone in a halfcourt setting, and fullcourt pressure after a score. The result was a 28 percent shooting night from the field (13-for-47) by the usually more accurate Razorbacks.
“Lower Richland is a very good team, but the girls played with a lot of heart,” first-year Walhalla coach Natalie Wilkinson said. “We weren’t going to go away without a fight, but our long shots didn’t fall tonight and that’s a lot of our game.”
Lower Richland jumped to a 13-2 lead and was seemingly on cruise control with a 28-9 advantage at 3:12 of the second quarter. Here, the Razorbacks stopped turning the ball over and began to effectively attack the Diamond Hornets’ press. The result was a 17-2 run that cut the LR lead to 30-26 at the 5:38 mark of the third quarter.
Senior Heather Jankowy, who was named the 3A girls player of the year, scored eight of her game-high 22 points during the surge.
But the Razorbacks’ momentum was stopped cold by LR junior center Breshay Johnson, who sparked a 9-0 response that allowed the Diamond Hornets to restore order. Johnson pulled off a steal and scored after Walhalla rebounded a missed LR shot. Johnson accounted for the first six points in the rally — one tally off the steal, one off the offensive boards and one off a dish by Ashley Irving. Irving then capped the move with a three-point play off a steal that upped the lead to 39-26 with 3:48 to go in the third.
LR’s advantage never dipped below double digits the rest of the way.
“That play by Breshay kind of got everybody hyped up again, wiped out all the fuzzy stuff that was going on, and we were able to keep it straight from there,” Stroman said. “She a veteran and doesn’t panic. She just went to work.”
Johnson posted 20 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks. All-state senior Jasmine Richardson backed the junior center with 14 points and steady floor play, while Irving chipped in 11.
Jankowy, who had 25 points in a first-round road win against Chester, had a 5-for-18 shooting night from the field, but was 8-for-9 from the free-throw line and led the team with eight rebounds.
“You can see why she was named the player of the year,” Stroman said. “She is a very good player.”