As Scotland guard Jordan Ratliffe went, so did the JV Scots in their conference home game against Hoke County Friday night.
In a first quarter marred by a poor Scotland shooting performance, Ratliffe missed his first six shots while the JV Bucks began by sinking three-of-four from the field to gain the 15-8 first quarter advantage over the Scots.
It was then that Ratliffe says teammate and sophomore center Jeremias Easterling offered up a bit of advice to the frustrated freshman.
“He told me to keep my head up and don’t let it affect the rest of the game,” Ratliffe said. “So I kept shooting and attacking the basket.”
Heeding his teammate’s advice, Ratliffe bounced back in the second quarter by scoring 10 of his season-high 20 points as the Scots followed suit with a 27-point quarter to plant the seeds for a Scotland rout.
From there, the JV Scots effectively blew the doors off the game and stampeded past Hoke to earn a 73-51 conference win. It was a much-needed victory after the team was narrowly edged a week prior by Purnell Swett 63-61 which handed Scotland their first loss of the season.
“Coming off a loss like that, we realized how important it was to play even harder the next time out,” said Scotland JV coach Megil McLean after his team’s Jan. 18 win over the Bucks. “We were one step slower than Hoke in the first quarter, but then we made adjustments and took control. If we play the game we want to play out there, no team can beat us.”
The seven-point Hoke lead after the first quarter would have been a double-digit deficit had Ratliffe not made a buzzer-beating basket from beyond the arc in the waning seconds. The three-pointer ignited the Scots, who continued riding that wave into an explosive second-quarter which also saw forward Randy Leak score eight of his 11 points on a perfect 4-4 performance from the field. Sophomore power forward Jaylend Ratliffe contributed five points in the second quarter as well, and the older Ratliffe also proved effective on the defensive end by collecting a game-high four blocks.
The Scotland lead was 35-26 at halftime.
Hoke opened the second half appearing rejuvenated following the break, as Bucks’ forward Dominique Love was fouled on a successful lay-up attempt. Love would make the subsequent free throw opportunity to help Hoke climb back within six points of the Scots.
But the Scots didn’t cool off in the slightest after their breakout second-quarter, as they followed by shooting over 50% (10-19) in the third quarter and demonstrating their bench depth. Scotland forward Ahmed Monley came off the bench to lead all third quarter scorers with eight points on 4-of-4 shooting.
“With our team, everyone can be a starter,” McLean said. “There is no second or third-string player, and that’s the case in every single game we play.”
The Scotland crowd on-hand popped huge when a long-range three-pointer from guard Quadrin Williams found the net as the final seconds of the third quarter ticked off. And this basket gave the Scots a 21-point advantage over Hoke which they wouldn’t relinquish.
The next game on tap for Scotland’s JV boys and girls’ squads occurs today at Terry Sanford, with tip-off scheduled for 5 p.m.