LAURINBURG — The Fighting Scots hit a two-game skid over the weekend losing to Hoke and Lumberton by a total of eight points.
The back-to-back losses moved Scotland into third place in the Sandhills Athletic Conference standings behind undefeated Hoke County at 9-0 and are one game behind Pinecrest at 6-2.
The Scots are still two games ahead of Seventy-First and Lumberton who are tied for fourth place at 4-5. Purnell Swett is in sixth place at 2-6 while Jack Britt and Richmond are tied for last place at 2-7.
Scotland has five remaining regular season conference games before entering the SAC-8 tournament and potentially the 4A playoffs for the first time in two years.
The Fighting Scots game against Hoke was a nail biter on Friday as the conference’s top two teams went head-to-head in Raeford.
Friday’s game was almost a mirror image of when the two met last month in Laurinburg — in December the Fighting Scots led all three quarters before Hoke rallied to a 69-62 win. This time around Hoke led the entire game before again picking up a single-digit victory over the Scots, 68-64.
The two teams exchanged three pointers throughout the first quarter with Hoke hitting the final three at the buzzer to give the Bucks a 16-15 lead.
Scots junior Isaiah Bostick kicked off the second quarter with a three-point jumper to help the Scots regain the lead. The lead continued to change as quickly as the two teams could get up and down the court.
Fighting Scots head coach Matt Justin called a timeout with 2:30 left in the quarter after Hoke went on an 11-4 run to take a 30-22 lead. Bostick quieted the rowdy Hoke county crowd with a two-handed dunk following the timeout, but the Bucks still managed to take a 10-point lead into halftime, 36-26.
As the temperature in the Hoke gym continued to rise, so did the intensity on the court between the two teams. Every player was covered in sweat as they booked it up and down the hardwood. The free-throw line helped the Scots close the gap in the third quarter as Scot senior Niem Ratliffe his six free-throws to pull his team within six, 51-45 heading into the final quarter.
The Scots started the fourth quarter with a turnover that resulted in a Hoke basket before back-to-back turnovers by the Bucks resulted in another dunk by Bostick.
With 52.3 seconds left in the game, Bostick hit a three to bring his team within four, 63-59. The Scots fouled Hoke’s Dakari Johnson to stop the clock with 46.8 seconds remaining. Johnson made both free throws, the Scots raced down the court and sophomore Garrett McRae drove the lane to the basket.
McRae went to the line on the Scots next trip to make it a four-point game with 21.4 ticks left. Justin called a timeout before sending Jalen Ray to the line.
The Scots drew the foul on Ratliffe, who made both of his free throws to make it a two-point game, 66-64 with 11 seconds left. The Scots were unable to stop Hoke senior Silas Love from getting to the basket to make it a four-point game. The Bucks ran the clock out to maintain their undefeated conference record.
After an emotional loss to Hoke on Friday, the Scots turned around and traveled to Lumberton on Saturday for a make-up game with the Pirates.
Lumberton was coming off an emotional game of their own — a win over Seventy-First.
The Scots may have underestimate their opponent, after double-digit scoring in the first and second quarters to take a 28-20 lead into halftime.
Lumberton’s defense stepped up in the third quarter to outscore the Scots 14-7 courtesy of multiple attempts at the basket. The Scots offense continued to struggle in the fourth quarter scoring only nine points to suffer the 48-44 loss to the Pirates.
The Scots have two games this week — both on the road — against Seventy-First and Pinecrest. The Scots and the Falcons will face off in Fayetteville tonight and on Friday, Feb. 2 the Scots and the Patriots will do battle for second place in the conference in Southern Pines. Tip off for both games is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Amber Hatten-Staley can be reached at 910-506-3170 or [email protected]