MOREHEAD CITY — There are no more undefeated teams in the 3A Coastal Conference anymore, thanks to West Carteret.
The girls basketball team handed Swansboro its first loss of the season Friday with a rousing come-from-behind 56-39 over the Pirates (12-1 overall). The Patriots (6-8) faced a 15-5 deficit in the first quarter before climbing back to their own double-digit lead.
“That was a good team win, offense and defense,” West coach Lindsey Howell said. “They did make a run on us, but we kept chipping away. This was probably the best team we’ve beaten this year. They’re a well-rounded team, and we had to play well-rounded to beat them.”
The Patriots outscored their visitors 34-18 in the second half to improve to 1-1 in the conference. White Oak (2-0) and Jacksonville (2-0) are tied for first in the standings with Swansboro and West tied for third.
“We have an opportunity to do well in the conference,” Howell said. “That’s why we play the tough nonconference games, to make sure we were prepared.”
The Patriots only have the fourth-best overall record among Coastal teams but have a higher strength of schedule than any other league team per MaxPreps.com.
West’s losses this year have come to Pamlico County, the No. 4-ranked team in the 1A, No. 16 in 1A East Surry (5-2), No. 18 in 2A Kinston (11-3), No. 20 in 2A Croatan (10-2) and No. 26 in 3A Jacksonville (9-3).
Swansboro came into the contest with the most points scored and fewest points allowed among conference teams. Their 12-game win streak to start the season was exceptional, but the conference will present a tougher challenge.
“This is a wakeup call,” Swansboro coach Kim Miller said. “We can react one of two ways. Our next game is against Jacksonville, so we’ll have a chance to work on our mental toughness.”
The Patriots and Pirates will meet a second time on Tuesday, Feb. 4 at Swansboro.
“West Carteret is always a great game,” Miller said. “They’re going to fight, and they’re going to bring their best. They did a great job on the boards, and we didn’t put ourselves in a position to get rebounds. We didn’t match the intensity and maintain the intensity throughout the game.”
The game was hotly contested despite the heavy swings in momentum. There were four jump balls alone in the first half and three more in the second as each side fought for each possession.
Swansboro took control early with a 15-5 lead with just over a minute to play in the opening quarter. Noelle Miller scored 10 of her team-high 20 during the run. Grace McAllister scored her team’s only three-pointer, finishing with 13 on the night.
West brought the game back to within a point midway through the second quarter with six straight points, all from Mackenzie Reed, but it didn’t overcome the deficit fully until later in the period with a run of seven points.
Kiki Hester started things off with a layup at the 3:35, mark, followed by a Cayman Montgomery three-pointer at 1:20 and an Emme Baber putback at 55 seconds to put West up 22-20.
“We were down eight or 10 against New Bern and came back to win,” Howell said, “but tonight was the first time this season where we had a shaky start and then come back and play under control.”
Montgomery finished the night with 18 points, while Reed led the way with a game-high 21. Montgomery scored 11 of her 18 in the fourth quarter to help the Patriots put the game away. Reed’s strongest quarter was the third period with 10.
“They did it within the flow of what the team is trying to do,” Howell said, “within the flow of the offense without overreaching. They both had great games.”
The Patriots sank six three-pointers with three apiece from Reed and Montgomery. Reed hit two to bookend the third quarter, and Montgomery sank her last in the fourth to give West its first double-digit lead of the night.
“Credit to their shooters, a couple of those were with a defender in their face, so it’s not like we weren’t doing the right things,” Miller said.
The Pirates closed the gap to 38-33 early in the fourth quarter, but the shots stopped falling as players took deeper and deeper looks.
“That’s the way the ball bounces,” Miller said. “We still have to play like a team and forget those plays or those misses. I didn’t think tonight’s loss was for a lack of effort. We just had some things that didn’t go our way. We have to overcome that and play more consistently.”
West finished the game 8-of-10 from the foul line, while Swansboro went 14-of-22. Miller led her team at the stripe shooting 8-of-10.
Other scorers for West were Hester with seven, Caroline Beaver four and Annie Fitzpatrick, Jayden Lupton and Baber two apiece.
Rylee Sprabary and Henson scored two each for Swansboro, while Callie Hermanson and Shanna Walton tallied one apiece.
West will only play one game this coming week, a road trip to White Oak (10-2 overall). Swansboro will be at Jacksonville on Friday.
Here are results of the game:
Swansboro....... 15 6 8 10-39
West Carteret.... 9 13 16 18-56
SWANSBORO (39) – Miller 20, McAllister 13, Henson 2, Sprabary 2, Hermanson 1, Walton 1.
WEST CARTERET (56) – Reed 21, Montgomery 18, Hester 7, Beaver 4, Baber 2, Fitzpatrick 2, Lupton 2.