The basketball seasons at all of the local traditional schools are long over, but the Surry Homeschool girls team got to take part in a little March Madness, completing its season in the East Coast Homeschool Basketball Championships at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. from March 14-19.
The Lady Patriots, who play their home games at the Armfield Center in Pilot Mountain, entered the multi-state tournament in its top (18U) division, even though the team is all underclassmen and decidedly younger than most of the teams that were in the classification. Surry played five games during the event, which began with four-tean preliminary pool play and then a second round of pool play, where the teams were allocated based on the results from the first round.
The team lost all three of its games in the initial round, where they encountered some bad luck due to an injury to point guard Krissa Hill that may have cost Surry a win. The team started out with a game against Loudoun Co. (Va.), where they were within a basket in the fourth quarter before running out of gas and losing.
Later that evening, Surry played North Greenville (S.C.) and struggled early on, falling behind by 14 points late in the first half before rallying in the second. With several minutes left in the contest, Hill went down with a knee injury, but Surry kept pushing and closed to within a point with time running out. A last-second shot that would have won it for the Lady Patriots missed, and the Hurricanes won the game 53-52.
It’s easy to believe that if Surry had the services of its all-conference floor leader, it might have won that game. Not having her definitely didn’t help the next morning, when the Lady Patriots were paired up with this year’s North Carolina state champions, the North Wake Storm. The Storm beat the shorthanded Surry team to conclude preliminary pool play.
The team got good news the next day. The extra day of rest allowed Hill to return to the lineup. In the meantime, the second round of pool play was announced, and North Wake wasn’t in it. On Thursday afternoon, the Lady Patriots again fell behind early and fought back, this time against Frederick (Md.). Surry went ahead in the second half and won the game 40-33.
The next afternoon, the team competed against Durham Flight for the championship of its pool, and lost its second heartbreaker of the event. The Lady Patriots battled back twice from a double-digit deficit and had the ball in the final seconds with a chance to win, but were unable to get a shot off in a 49-47 loss.
Surry, which ended its season at 12-22, trailed 24-10 at the half, having not scored from the field in over 15 minutes at that point. The Lady Patriots cut their deficit to three points in the third quarter, only to see Durham push it back to 12 in the fourth. With about six minutes to play, Surry made one last push. The lead was chopped in half, to 48-42, but just 63 seconds remained, and coach Todd Hill was forced to use his last time-out because of an injury to starter Jill Boyd, in order to keep her in the game. Still, a 3-pointer and two free throws from Trinity Thompson pulled the Lady Patriots to within two with 20 seconds to go.
Surry began to foul, but unfortunately, the team hadn’t committed enough fouls to put Durham in the bonus yet. They finally did with just nine seconds left. Durham missed the front end of a one-and-one, and the Lady Patriots tried to get a shot off to tie or win the game, but couldn’t.
“I wish we had been able to keep that time-out at that point,” said Coach Hill. “But Jill had gotten smacked in the face and I needed her to stay in with 1:03 left. If I hadn’t used the time-out, we’d have had to take her out and we didn’t have anyone to take her place.”
It was a microcosm of much of the team’s season — so close, and yet so far. Five members of the team would have been considered freshmen at a traditional school. Yet, they were still competitive most of the time.
“We have everybody back,” said Coach Hill. “We’re still really young. If they work hard this summer, we will have a very good year next year. We didn’t come here to go 1-4, but we were three points away from 3-2.”
Forward Jenny Brown and Krissa Hill were both voted to the all-conference team by a vote of the coaches whose teams played Surry this season.
Brown, despite having to play an undersized post for the Lady Patriots much of the time, averaged 8.4 points and 9.0 rebounds this season.
“Our team was all guards and big guards,” said Coach Hill. “Jenny was always playing against someone bigger than her, and she did a great job.”
Hill moved from being a spot shooter to the team’s primary ball-handler this season. She averaged 6.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.