LAURINBURG — The Fighting Scots got off to a sluggish start in the opening round of the Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament on Tuesday against Richmond.
The two teams had played a highly charged game to close out the regular season, just four days earlier, that saw the Fighting Scots come away with a 58-42 victory.
The Scots had to work a lot harder this week to pick up their latest win — battling a swarming Raiders defense along with questionable calls by the officials.
The first quarter was a back and forth mess of turnovers and jump balls, but the Scots managed to find the basket enough to hold onto a three-point lead, 10-7.
The Scots lead evaporated in the second quarter as the Raiders went on a 13-0 run before Scot senior Niem Ratliffe broke the stalemate. Trailing 22-14 the Scots managed to trim Richmond’s lead to five by the end of the quarter with baskets from Ratliffe and Bostick and a three-pointer from Bostick.
The second half saw the Scots come out ready to play, as they continued to chip away at Richmond’s lead. Three pointers were the difference maker as Ratliffe, Bostick and Janoah McRae gave the Scots a one-point lead 32-31 halfway through the third quarter.
The Scots clung to their slim lead as their trips to the free-throw line were less than productive, as the Scots were 17-of-29 from the line to shoot 58 percent.
The physicality of Tuesday’s game caught up with Scots at the beginning of the fourth quarter as sophomore Garrett McRae fouled out of the game. McRae’s final foul sent Richmond’s Darrius Butler to the line. Butler made both of his free-throws to bring the Raiders back within on, 41-40.
On their ensuing possession, Janoah McRae hit a three-pointer to extend the Scots lead back to four, 44-40.
The Scotland fans got to their feet and made their disdain for the officials known as the game started to get a little chippy and the whistles and no calls seemed to favor Richmond.
After two missed free throws by Bostick, the Scots rebounded the ball under the basket and Richmond tried to gain possession. Arms and legs were flying everywhere as both teams fought for the ball, it appeared a Richmond player swatted the arm of Scots senior Justin McRae, which should have resulted in a whistle.
No whistle was blown for the foul on McRae; however, the officials blew the whistle as Richmond’s Da’Shaun Wallace jumped into the air for the ball and landed on his hip — untouched by the Scotland players. He went to the line and made both free-throws to keep it a one-point game, 45-44.
A basket by Scots sophomore Bruce Wall and a trip to the line by Ratliffe gave the Scots a five point lead with just under two minutes to play.
Richmond drove down and made back-to-back baskets but the clock was their enemy and they were forced to foul. The Raiders sent Ratliffe to the line three times — resulting in six points for the Scots.
With a 56-48 lead with 35 seconds to play, the Scots weren’t taking their foot off the gas. Ratliffe picked Richmond’s pocket and threw it up for Bostick who came down with the two-handed dunk to make it a 10-point Scotland lead, 58-48.
Richmond hit a three to make it a seven-point game, but sent Bostick to the line. Bostick split his shots with 8.9 seconds remaining. Richmond hit a three as time expired — or at least it should have. On the Scots inbound the clock didn’t start, but the Scots maintained possession of the ball and the referees waved off the fans and called the game.
Thethe four higher seeded SAC-8 teams, including the Scots, came away with victories in the first round of the conference tournament — all four games were decided by eight points or less.
No. 1 Hoke narrowly outlasted No. 8 Purnell, 77-70 in Raeford while No. 3 Pinecrest slugged it out with No. 6 Jack Britt securing the 45-37 victory in Southern Pines. No. 4 Lumberton played host to No. 5 Seventy-First and the Pirates bested the Falcons by three, 60-57.
The semi-finals, which tip off on Thursday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m., will see No. 1 Hoke host No. 4 Lumberton while the No. 2 Scots will welcome No. 3 Pinecrest back to Laurinburg.
The boy’s SAC-8 championship game will be held on Friday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. with the higher seeded team hosting.
Amber Hatten-Staley can be reached at 910-506-3170 or [email protected]