SMITHFIELD — Smithfield High probably won't play another game this season with all-conference forward Chris Pierce, but as teammate Sascha Stafford pointed out, the Packers can play for their injured teammate. The Packers also can play like him, as they showed in their 49-37 win against Lafayette on Friday in a Bay Rivers District game.
Pierce's biggest contributions in two-plus seasons as a starter for the Packers were his aggressive defense and fierce rebounding. On a night when the Packers (11-1, 11-0 district) shot just 39 percent, they were solid defensively and on the offensive glass.
"Our shooting's been a little off all week, but we were able to switch defenses up and get some easy shots," said point guard Ryan Jones, who had 13 points and two steals.
The easy shots were often the result of steals (Smithfield had nine) or offensive rebounds. The Packers had two possessions in the game where they nabbed five offensive rebounds before scoring. Kendell Shepherd (10 points, three steals) finished one with a baseline jumper, and Stafford (10 points, 13 rebounds) finished the other with a stickback.
"We know without Chris we have to crash the glass and go straight for the ball," said Stafford, a 6-foot-4 junior averaging nearly 11 rebounds per game. "I'm just trying to step up, contribute and help the team by rebounding."
It wasn't always easy for the Packers, as Lafayette played well defensively in its zone and benefited from the offensive aggression of guard Keyshawn Jefferson, who scored a game-high 23 points. But, in a game of runs, Smithfield's were bigger and more frequent.
Nick Turner had a 3-pointer and a fast-break layup in a nine-point run Smithfield used to go ahead 14-4 in the first quarter. Senior forward Trey Neville retaliated with a 3-pointer to surpass the 1,000-point mark for his career and launch a nine-point run that pulled Lafayette to within 14-13 early in the second quarter.
Smithfield pushed the lead back to 10 points with another nine-point run that featured a Shepherd stickback, a Turner 3 and a Stafford score off of a steal. Jefferson's scoring kept the Rams as close as 28-21 at half, but Smithfield dominated the third quarter to pull ahead 43-28.
"I don't think we moved the ball fast enough against their zone in the first half," Smithfield coach Richard Pullen said. "We came back after half with quicker penetration, got some screens going and pressed a little more."
Pullen was pleased that the Packers' strong third quarter involved so many players. Stafford had two more stickbacks, Turner scored on a steal, Jones' six points were the result of drives to the basket, and Shepherd, who hit a 3, played well all around.
The Packers played deliberately in the fourth quarter and were never threatened. After consecutive one-point victories following Pierce's absence with a broken wrist, that was a welcome thing – and a thing that kept the Packers on track for their first-ever Bay Rivers District title.
"That felt great, because we don't want to play a nail-biter all the time," Stafford said. "Winning the district would be a big accomplishment and say a lot about Smithfield."
SMITHFIELD 49, LAFAYETTE 37
LAFAYETTE (5-7, 4-7 Bay Rivers): Jefferson 23, Edwards 2, Canady 3, Perozek 3, Neville 6. Totals 13 7-12 37.
SMITHFIELD (11-1, 11-0): Shepherd 10, Turner 14, Jones 13, Stafford 10, Ryan 2. Totals 18 9-10 49.
Lafayette91279 — 37Smithfield1414156 — 49
3-point goals: Lafayette 4 (Jefferson, Canady, Perozek, Neville), Smithfield 4 (Turner 2, Shephard, Jones). JV: Smithfield won.