Winning streak snapped as Lady Raiders suffer first loss of new year

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Prior to Jan. 1, the Southampton Academy girls basketball team had not been playing at the level that head coach Jeffrey Pope had imagined. An injury to star point guard Sarah Best and inopportune family vacations had plagued the Lady Raiders, as they struggled to win only three of their first eight contests.

That all changed at the turn of the new year, however, as the team ran off four-consecutive victories. Best, who had been dealing with sprained thumb, ditched the wrap on her hand to lead the team with a 15.3 points per game average over that stretch.

The run, which included victories over Kenston Forest, Richmond Christian and Tidewater Academy, culminated in a 43-34 win against Blessed Sacrament-Huguenot. Best, like clockwork, pitched in 16 points and five rebounds, while Mason Pope contributed 12 and two. Her sister, Avery, pulled down 15 boards, as well.

“We are definitely a better team than we were in the first part of December,” Pope said of his team’s all around effort, “but we’re still not where we want to be.”

That was evident during the heavily-anticipated rematch with Brunswick Academy, a 28-19 loss for the Lady Raiders earlier this season. The capacity crowd — partially due to the subsequent boys game — was not enough to will the team to victory, however, as the Vikings made seven more free throws than the Lady Raiders in Brunswick’s 37-30 win.

Southampton Academy was 8-for-15 from the charity stripe, while Brunswick was 15-for-18. Best chipped in 13 points and five rebounds, while Mason Pope added 10 and three.

“We played with great intensity at times,” Jeffrey Pope said, reflecting on his team’s ability to claw back into the contest and tie the game at 27-all with just five minutes remaining. “We are still looking to put together an entire game, though.”

With only six games remaining this season, Pope believes that his team is still in good standing at 7-6 overall, 4-1 in league play.

“One of our goals from the start of the season was to be one of the best defensive teams in the conferences, and I think we have accomplished that, so far,” he said, noting that they held Brunswick’s star player to only four points on Friday night.

“We are still in position to make a good showing in the conference, but it will take hard work and us getting better over the next month.”

Southampton Academy will hit the road for the first time this calendar year on Wednesday night, traveling to Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, to play Halifax Academy, before making a return trip to Blackstone to face Kenston Forest the following evening.