Senior leadership delivers in clutch for Pine Grove

Kedrick Storey | Southern Sentinel Pine Grove's Aliyah Akins scored 15 points and added eight rebounds.

Kedrick Storey | Southern Sentinel
Pine Grove’s Aliyah Akins scored 15 points and added eight rebounds.

By Kedrick Storey

Southern Sentinel

PINE GROVE – The Pine Grove Lady Panthers have five seniors, but first-year head coach Katie Bates points to forward Anna Fryar and point guard Leslie Hopkins as standout leaders. Both came through in a huge way Monday.

Trailing the Hickory Flat Lady Rebels by a point with less than four minutes remaining in their Class 1A North State opening round game, and each playing with four fouls, the duo scored the final eight points for Pine Grove to lift it to a 53-51 victory.

“I didn’t expect anything less,” said Bates. “Those two have been our bread and butter all year.”

Pine Grove (26-6) will host the remainder of the girls Class 1A North Tournament, which resumes on Thursday.

The game was close from the opening tip. The Lady Rebels took a 47-46 lead on a jumper by Amber Thompson at the 4:35 mark. After a Pine Grove timeout, Fryar took low-post feeds from Hopkins on back-to-back possessions, banking both for a 50-47 lead with 2:49 remaining.

Fryar, who finished with 12 points, said her foul trouble made her nervous, but all she thought about was scoring.

“I said we are not going to lose this game,” said Fryar. “The team was counting on me and I didn’t want to let them down or let Coach Bates down.”

Hickory Flat got a basket from Cece Gibson to close to within 50-49 with 1:25 to play, but then missed their next four shots. In the meantime, Hopkins sank 3 of 4 four free throws.

“The effort was there, and we had a couple shots early on but we just didn’t get what we wanted,” said Hickory Flat coach J.C. Hayles.

Pine Grove led 33-32 at halftime. Thompson led Hickory Flat with 16 points. Aliyah Akins had 15 points for Pine Grove.

kedrick.storey@journalinc.com