Special to The Commercial/Bo Rogers
Ajia Richardson of Pine Bluff tries to steal the ball from Kerasha Johnson of Lonoke in the first quarter Monday at Pine Bluff High School’s McFadden Gymnasium.
Ajia Richardson has picked up where she left off last season.
The leading scorer for Pine Bluff last season, Richardson paced the Fillies again with 19 points Monday in a 54-41 win over Lonoke in the opening game of the Southeast Arkansas Invitational at Pine Bluff’s McFadden Gymnasium. The junior guard scored 11 of her points at halftime, helping the Fillies (2-0) take a 32-24 lead.
She also had some scoring help from Victoria Broady, who added 13 points.
“Her and Ajia are a really good backcourt, and they’re going to have to carry us,” Pine Bluff coach Loy Moore said. “We’ve got a lot of depth with the forwards, but they’re inexperienced. They’re 10th-graders. They just have to play.”
The Fillies played well on the defensive end, scoring 11 points off turnovers and at times keeping Lonoke (1-1) out of its halfcourt game.
“We’ve got some young kids who got tired after the first quarter,” Lonoke coach Nathan Morris said. “The passes we made that were more sound early, we decided we could make tougher passes, and those passes turned into turnovers and those turnovers turned into layups.”
The Jackrabbits led the Fillies 12-10 before Richardson canned a jumpshot that started a 9-0 Pine Bluff run. Lonoke scored off three straight turnovers to whittle a 25-18 deficit down to 25-24, but a three-point basket by Richardson snapped the run and Pine Bluff turned up its defense to create more scoring opportunities.
“We’re picking up full-court, hoping it will give us some runs,” Moore said. “You know, it’s never consistently going to give you points, but it’s going to come in runs, and it did last Wednesday night against Mount St. Mary and it did tonight.
“It was the difference last Wednesday and it was the difference tonight. Steals and layups were the difference in the game.”
Lonoke was held to two field goals in the third quarter and trailed 43-30 going into the fourth. The Rabbits were no closer to the lead from that point.
Kerasha Johnson, an all-conference player as a freshman last season, led the Rabbits with 18 points, and Carlin Whitfield added 10.
“She’s got to understand we want it in her hands all the time instead of one play not and one play, yeah,” Morris said. “And got to get a little more consistent on defense, but that’s all of us.”
Little Rock Christian 60, White Hall 57
The Invitational concluded its first day with a game that came down to the final seconds.
White Hall (0-1) had possession with 16 seconds left but took a two-point shot instead of a three to tie, and Little Rock Christian rebounded to run out the clock.
JaeLisa Allen scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead White Hall, which trailed 29-28 at halftime. Ally Stuart had 15 points and nine rebounds, and Rachel Box added seven points and four steals.
Dumas 53, Marianna 22
The Lady Cats outscored the Lady Trojans 44-13 in the second and third quarters to pull away for a big victory in the SEARK Invitational.
Whitney Henderson led Dumas with 22 points, and Mona’ Mitchell added 13.
Dumas never allowed Marianna to score double digits in a period.
Watson Chapel 50, Mount St. Mary 35
LITTLE ROCK — The Lady Wildcats started their season with a 15-point victory over the host Belles in the Heavenly Hoops tournament.
Chelsea Payne scored 21 points and Kamera Bozeman had 15 for Watson Chapel, which trailed 11-10 after the first quarter but surged to a 26-20 halftime lead. Watson Chapel then outscored Mount St. Mary 17-4 in the third quarter.
The Lady Wildcats will play North Little Rock at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the semifinals.
Star City 58, Sylvan Hills 29
LITTLE ROCK — At the Heavenly Hoops tournament, defending 4A state champion Star City (4-0) doubled up Sylvan Hills behind Tyeshia Harris’ 23 points and Jaida Harden’s 12.
Star City held Sylvan Hills to two second-quarter points in taking a 25-14 lead into halftime.