Pinewood Prep continued its run of excellence in SCISA girls basketball on Saturday at the Sumter Civic Center, defeating Heathwood Hall 58-51 in the Class 3A championship game.
It was the third straight title and the fourth in five years for the Panthers from Summerville, who finished with a 27-4 record.
The wait continues for Heathwood Hall (20-8), which has not claimed a championship since 1994.
A’ja Wilson, the top-ranked junior in the nation, scored a game-high 30 points, but Pinewood’s scoring balance and veteran leadership proved too potent a combination for Heathwood Hall to overcome.
“Their experience definitely showed, and they played better as a team,” said Highlanders coach John O’Cain.
Wilson wowed the crowd again, which included North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell, but the Panthers countered with 5-foot-6 senior guard Raygon Hendrix, whose impact on the game was much greater than her 15 points.
Hendrix’s relentless defensive pressure triggered a shaky ball handing performance by the Highlanders, who finished with 25 turnovers.
“A’ja was great but it takes a whole team to beat this special group of people,” said Pinewood Prep coach Nancy Beatty. “She got into their heads and was the best player on the floor in the biggest game of the year.”
“She might be small, but she sure plays big,” said O’Cain. “She ran the offense at one end, and caused us all kinds of problems at the other end.”
Pinewood ruled the second half, setting the tone in the opening 75 seconds when the Panthers broke a 24-24 halftime tie with a 10-0 run on 4-for-4 shooting, including two 3-pointers. The Highlanders were 0-for-3 from the field with two turnovers during the span.
Hendrix scored 10 points in the fourth quarter. She also had six steals and four assists overall.
Katelyn Dumbaugh and Maria Corella backed Hendrix with 13 and 11 points, respectively.
“Hopefully, we’ll get another shot at this,” said O’Cain, who welcomes back the five championship game starters next season.
Wilson also had 10 rebounds and two blocks. Victoria Dickerson and Chelsea Joseph had seven points apiece in support.