Coach Pat Rivers wanted to wait before she turned up the figurative heat, because it can get literally hot in her home gym.
In the third quarter, her Richmond Academy Musketeers unleashed their relentless pressure.
Krystal Scott scored 20 points to pace four players in double figures as defending Class AAA state champion Richmond Academy girls rallied in the second half to post their 22nd consecutive win by knocking off Class AAAA No. 4 Hephzibah 63-56 in their home opener on Tuesday night.
Hephzibah led 26-22 at intermission, thanks to a dominating front line of LeCoe Willingham, April Clyburn and Deyanna Little who combined for 22 points and help the Rebels win the first-half board battle 25-14.
"We put a full-court press on in the third quarter," Richmond Academy coach Pat Rivers said. "We can't match up with them down there. We wanted to speed the game up, but we didn't want to start too soon. It can get hot in here."
The Musketeers, ranked No. 1 in Class AAA, went on a 12-2 run in the first 90 seconds of the second half to take a 34-28 lead. Hephzibah (3-1) came back and scored the next seven points to take a 35-34 lead. Richmond Academy (5-0) took the lead, 40-35, for good on a 3-pointer by point guard April Steele and a 3-point play from forward Quanda Ball with 4:31 left in the third period.
Richmond Academy scored 20 points off 13 Hephzibah turnovers in the third period. The Musketeers had a total of 32 points off 32 Rebels turnovers for the game, while the Rebels were only able to score seven points off 18 Musketeer turnovers.
"The key to our press is our guards, April Steele and Natasha McFarley," said Ball, who scored seven of her 11 points in the period. "They work real hard putting pressure on the ball."
Scott, Ball, Steele (14 points), McFarley (11 points) scored seven points apiece as Richmond Academy outscored Hephzibah 28-14 in the period.
Hephzibah was never able to get closer than eight points in the final period. Willingham (18 points, 12 rebounds), April Clyburn (17 points, 12 rebounds) and Little (10 points, 10 rebounds) all posted double-doubles for the Rebels, but it was the turnovers that the Musketeers' pressure caused that was the key factor in the game.
The Rebels, who start three sophomores and a junior, out-rebounded the Musketeers 41-27 and outscored them 17-5 on second-chance points.
"I'm glad Augusta has schools like Richmond Academy, Josey and Butler," Rebels coach Wendell Lofton said. "This will get us ready for down the road when we get in the region and playoffs. We lost our poise a little bit, but other than that we gained so much more in experience."
Scott said the Musketeers feel they own the second half of games. Hephzibah handed Richmond Academy one of its two losses during its 27-2 championship season last year.
"The third and fourth quarters are our quarters," Scott said. "We got real hyped in the second half and started putting the pressure on and turning them over."
HEPHZIBAH GIRLS (56) -- Shemika Sheriffe 3, Jessica Stephens 2, LeCoe Willingham 18, April Clyburn 19, Deyanna Little 10, Jennifer East 4. Totals 23 10-23 56.
RICHMOND ACADEMY (63) -- April Steele 14, Natasha McFarley 11, Kristy Scott 20, Quanda Ball 11, Kendra Cox 4, Riquaya Morrison 3. Totals 25 8-21 63.
Hephzibah 10 16 14 16 -- 56
Richmond Academy 8 14 28 13 -- 63
3-point goals: Richmond Academy 5 (Steele, Scott 4). Records: Hephzibah 3-1, Richmond Academy 5-0. Next: Hephzibah at Dublin, Friday, 5 p.m.; Richmond Academy at Greenbrier, Friday, 5 p.m.
HEPHZIBAH (46) -- Jerrian Sanders 2, D.J. Spann 5, Monte Jackson 2, Larry Johnson 4, Charles Claiborne 7, Shawn Williams 4, Nick Price 4, Justin Jackson 6, Jimmy Clay 12. Totals 21 3-10 46.
RICHMOND ACADEMY (62) -- Kenny Dukes 14, Tuffy Walker 17, Quincy Murphy 6, Jacona Pierce 12, Amos Brittain 2, James Stokeling 4, Brad Reid 1, Jermaine Brown 4, Mohammad Rashada 2. Totals 22 17-26 62.
Hephzibah 6 17 4 19 -- 46
Richmond Academy 13 20 13 16 -- 62
3-point goals: Hephzibah 1 (Clay), Richmond Academy 1 (Murphy). Records: Hephzibah 0-5, Richmond Academy 3-1. Next: Hephzibah at Dublin, Friday, 6:30 p.m. Richmond Academy at Greenbrier, Friday, 5 p.m.
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