BLADENBORO — The Fighting Scots second round performance in the fifth annual Woodmen Life Christmas Tournament won’t be one head coach Matt Justin lists as his favorite memory from 2017.
The Fighting Scots first round game against First Flight on Wednesday was cancelled because the team didn’t want to travel because of the potential for bad weather. The forfeit win advanced the Scots to the late-game against host school West Bladen.
The Knights rotated five players in and out as they set a blistering pace causing the Fighting Scots to commit 18 turnovers throughout the game.
Despite the errors, the Fighting Scots pulled off the 74-60 win over the home team to advance to the championship game against Clinton.
Scotland senior Niem Ratliffe hit four consecutive three-pointers to give his team a 14-7 lead over the Knights. West Bladen kept the game close taking advantage of turnovers to tie the game at 14 at the end of the first quarter.
The game went back-and-forth as the teams exchanged baskets, a three-pointer by Ratliffe put the Scots up 23-16. The Knights continued to rotate in players and kept up their accelerated pace and tied the game at 26. Back-to-back trips to the free-throw line by senior Justin McRae and junior Isaiah Bostick, plus a rebound and basket from Bostick gave the Scots a 31-28 lead at the half.
The Fighting Scots defense stepped up their play in the third quarter with three steals resulting in six points, which increased their lead to 41-32. Scotland reduced the number of turnovers and spread the wealth on offense. Baskets by senior Brenton Thomas, junior AJ Jackson and sophomore Bruce Wall gave the Scots a nine-point lead heading into the final eight minutes, 49-40.
As the quarter ended, the Scots players had their hands on their knees, breathing heavy as the Knights refused to slow down. The closest West Bladen got to the Scots lead in the final quarter was 10 points.
Scotland head coach Matt Justin emptied his bench as every player on the roster saw court time. Sophomore CJ Settles hit back-to-back shots from beyond the arc. On the second shot, Settles got fouled by the Knights — a fact head coach Travis Pait vehemently opposed.
The referees gifted Pait with an after-Christmas technical for his behavior and the Scots sent McRae to the line for the free throws. McRae hit both shots and the Scots took advantage of the ensuing possession with a basket by Bostick.
The Fighting Scots were led by Ratliffe with 21 points followed by Bostick with 11. McRae and sophomore Bruce Wall each tallied eight points while fellow sophomore CJ Settles had six points.
The Scots were back on the court Friday night to play Clinton to determine the 2017 champion of the fifth annual Woodmen Life Christmas Tournament. The results from that game will appear in Tuesday’s edition of the Exchange.
Amber Hatten-Staley can be reached at 910-506-3170 or email@example.com.