LAURINBURG — For the first time in decades the Fighting Scots are in the Sweet 16.
The No. 12 Scots advanced to the third round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs after knocking off No. 5 McDowell, 77-52 on Thursday.
The Fighting Scots came out swinging as seniors Niem Ratliffe, Justin McRae and junior Isaiah Bostick all hit threes in the first quarter to give the Scots a 27-19 lead after the first eight minutes.
Ratliffe was on fire as he hit five threes in the opening quarter to pace the Scots with a season high 38 points. The Scots senior went on to hit two more threes in the second quarter to close out the first half with seven from beyond the arc.
Ratliffe’s offensive performance coupled with the Scots aggressive tactics on defense saw them take a 44-30 lead into the break.
The Scots defense held McDowell’s leading scorers Antoine Lindsey and Kevin Silver to just five points in the first half.
“Lindsey and Silver have had multiple explosive games this year for McDowell, with 30 or more points in games and we basically shut them down, which was the difference,” said Scots head coach Matt Justin. “Bruce Wall and Justin McRae started off on them full-court denial defense and we rotated Kris McLean and Garrett McRae off the bench on them.”
The Titans mounted a comeback in the third quarter, cutting the Scots lead to 10 by outscoring the Scots 10-6 to make it a 50-40 game.
The Scots, as they’ve done so many times this season, dropped 27 points in the fourth quarter, led by Ratliffe’s 11 points and three-pointers from senior Janoah McRae and former JV player Shyheim Lloyd.
In total, the Scots had 11 players score, after Ratliffe’s massive 38 points, Bostick was the second leading score with 11 followed by McRae with seven. The other eight Scots players chipped in two, three and four points towards the victory.
The Scots managed to hold McDowell to just 52 points — a season low for the Titans, who were averaging almost 80 points per game.
Scotland’s 19 wins this season is creeping up on the 21-6 record set in 1985, according to Scotland High School yearbooks.
This is the first appearance the Fighting Scots have made in the regional semi-finals or Sweet 16, according to the NCHSAA records dating back to 1982.
The Scots will host No. 13 David W. Butler on Saturday at 6 p.m. The Bulldogs are 24-5 on the season and upset No. 4 East Forsyth on Thursday, 51-43.
“We’re three wins away from the state championship,” said Justin. “Butler has been a top 10 team all year and will be a tough match-up for the Scots.”
The last time the Scots faced Butler in the 4A playoffs was 18 years ago in 2000. The two teams met in the second round of the playoffs and the Scots fell to the Bulldogs, 70-56.
The winner of the No. 12 Fighting Scots/No. 13 Butler match-up will face the winner of No. 1 North Mecklenburg (27-1) vs. No. 9 Rocky River (21-6) on Tuesday, Feb. 27 with the higher seeded team hosting.
4A Men’s third round pairings
No. 1 Garner Magnet (25-1) vs. No. 9 Leesville Road (21-6)
No. 4 South Central (25-0) vs. No. 5 Hoke County (26-1)
No. 3 Heritage (22-4) vs. No. 6 Green Hope (22-5)
No. 2 Broughton (25-2) vs. No. 10 Knightdale (19-7)
No. 1 North Mecklenburg (27-1) vs. No. 9 Rocky River (21-6)
No. 12 Scotland (19-8) vs. No. 13 David W. Butler (24-5)
No. 3 Olympic (21-4) vs. No. 11 Page (19-9)
No. 2 Independence (27-1) vs. No. 7 Ardrey Kell (23-5)
4A Women’s third round pairings
No. 1 Southeast Raleigh (27-0) vs. No. 8 Leesville Road (22-4)
No. 4 Green Hope (23-4) vs. No. 12 Lumberton (25-4)
No. 3 E.A. Laney (26-2) vs. No. 11 Jordan (21-6)
No. 2 Heritage (25-2) vs. No. 10 Wakefield (21-6)
No. 1 Northwest Guilford (25-2) vs. No. 8 Ronald Reagan (21-5)
No. 4 Ardrey Kell (24-3) vs. No. 5 Hickory Ridge (26-1)
No. 3 West Forsyth (23-3) vs. No. 11 Zebulon B. Vance (21-6)
No. 2 Mallard Creek (26-2) vs. No. 10 South Mecklenburg (25-4)
Amber Hatten-Staley can be reached at 910-506-3170 or email@example.com.