YORK — Lafayette High offered its bid as the Bay Rivers District's best girls basketball team and Rachel Lia staked her claim as its best player. Lia scored 24 points Thursday as the Rams won 50-42 at four-time defending champion Grafton.
The home defeat was exceedingly rare for the Clippers in district play. They were undefeated at home in the district the past two seasons and lost only once the season before that.
"It's really incredible for me and for our team," said Lia, a sophomore whose cousin Morgan Heath was the district and regional Player of the Year for Grafton three years ago. "A lot of the girls on this team have never beaten Grafton, so this win is kind of important to show other teams in the Bay Rivers we're definitely someone to contend with."
The victory did not come easily, even with Grafton's starting point guard, Robyon Smith, sidelined until January with a broken hand. The Clippers (1-1, 1-1 district) led by six points early in the third quarter, thanks in large part to the play of Christa Hall, who scored a team-high 13 points.
But Lia, who hit her stride midway through the second quarter following a slow start, took control offensively with the game in the balance in the third quarter. An effective triangle-and-two defense, which choked off opportunities for Hall and standout guard Hayley Marshall down the stretch, was the game-clincher for the Rams.
After a tense start for both teams, Megan Wiltshire hit two 3-pointers to lead the Rams (3-0, 2-0) to a 17-10 lead after a quarter. Then Hall, who sat out last season with a knee injury, displayed her all-district form of two years ago to vault the Clippers into the lead.
Her 10 points in the second quarter included a 3-pointer, a bucket off of a steal and two free throws when she was fouled while shooting following a rebound. Hall hit a pull-up 3 during a 6-3 run early in the second half as the Clippers' lead peaked at 35-29.
Enter Lia, who averaged 14.8 points in two seasons for Hampton Roads Academy and was selected all-state a year ago. She began slicing through the zone defense the Clippers employed in the second half, scoring basket after basket on the run.
"Once I got my ball-handling under control and got by the first two defenders, I kept my shot under control and made the floaters pretty easy," Lia said.
Scoring all of the points in a 13-2 run, Lia lifted the Rams to a 42-37 lead with five minutes to play in the game. Settling almost exclusively for long-range shots during that stretch, the Clippers were 1-of-17 from the field.
"I don't think we attacked the basket once in the second half," Grafton coach Tommy Bayse told his girls.
Rams coach Chris Brown said, "We wanted them to shoot those shots. They made them early, but we got some pressure on them in the second half, and luckily they didn't fall."
Grafton pulled to within three points once in the final minutes, but Wiltshire's third 3 of the game gave the Rams some room. Kenya Holiday closed the game in style for the Rams by hitting a 3 just a few feet inside the half-court line at the final buzzer.
"Any time you play Tommy Bayse and Grafton, you've got to fight," Brown said. "That's what I'm asking out of this young team: To fight through adversity, fight through different situations and gain some chemistry."
LAFAYETTE 50, GRAFTON 42
LAFAYETTE (3-0, 2-0 Bay Rivers): Wiltshire 9, Macomber 5, Lia 24, Holiday 8, Blake 3, Curtis 1. Totals 17 11-17 50.
GRAFTON (1-1, 1-1): Cunningham 7, Hall 13, Celar 6, Tavares 2, Marshall 4, Swann 3, Koehnle 7. Totals 17 5-11 42.
Lafayette17 9 12 12 — 50Grafton 10 19 6 7 — 42
3-point goals: Lafayette 5 (Wiltshire 3, Lia, Holiday), Grafton 3 (Hall 2, Cunningham). JV: Lafayette won.
O'Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963.