LAURINBURG — The Fighting Scots had three chances to sink the game winning basket against Lumberton on Monday. With 4.8 seconds left the Scots got the inbound, tried the lay up to Trey Dixon — the ball rolled off the rim. The Scots got the rebound and junior Niem Ratliffe took a a mid-range shot in traffic — shot bounced off the backboard. Despite all odds, the Scots got the ball a third time as the final seconds ticked off the clock and senior Tyrese Baucum put the ball up — no dice.
The Pirates ran off the court in celebration with a 75-74 win over the Scots to advance to the second round of the Southeastern conference tournament. The Scots bench was silent as the players and coaches tried to figure out how they blew a 14-point lead to a team they beat twice during the regular season.
The first quarter of the game was nothing like the final, as they Scots jumped out to a 19-7 lead courtesy of five three pointers — three of senior Greg McMillian and two from junior Justin McRae. The Scots increased their lead to 14 with a basket in transition by Ratliffe.
A steal by Lumberton and two quick baskets by Tyreik McCallum and D.J. McDonald shrunk the Scots lead to 10 at the end of the first quarter, 21-11. Scots head coach Matt Justin was less than pleased with the performance of his team in the final two minutes of the quarter.
“If you keep turning the ball over I’m going to pull every one of you,” Justin said. “Take care of the basketball.”
Lumberton opened the second quarter with a 9-0 run to cut the Scots lead to one, 21-20 before the Scots offense got themselves back in gear. Baskets by Baucum, McRae and another three from McMillian gave the Scots a four-point lead, 28-24. The Scots extended their lead with a basket by Dixon that drew the foul. Dixon missed the extra-point, but McMillian was there to tap the ball in for another two points.
The Scots closed the second quarter on a 5-0 run with a Baucum basket and a trip to the line by McMillian. After a Lumberton turnover, the Scots put the ball in McMillan’s hands and the Pirates fouled him from beyond the arc, setting the senior up with three free-throws. McMillian hit all three to give his team a 38-26 lead heading into the locker room.
After halftime two different teams took the floor, Lumberton’s defense was applying the full-court pressure, making shots in the paint and drawing the fouls. While the Scots came out a little lack luster, the offense wasn’t moving the ball as crisply and the shots just weren’t falling.
All of that culminated in the Scots lead being cut to just six, 56-50 by the end of the third quarter.
The Scots defense couldn’t contain the Pirates offense and will just over four and a half minutes to play Lumberton tied the game at 64. Ratliffe got his team back the lead with a trip to the line, but it was short lived as the Pirates’ Kwashek Breeden drove through the lane for a basket.
Tied at 66, Ratliffe got his team back the lead with a hard earned basket in the paint. Lumberton’s Jordan McNeill responded with a basket and a trip to the line. With two and a half minutes to play Lumberton had their first lead of the game, 69-68. Pirates head coach Matt Hill called a timeout, it wasn’t long until Hill would have to use another timeout to save one of his players from the Scots swarming defense.
With 1:36 left to play, Lumberton’s Stephon Lloyd drove to the basket and drew the foul to give the Pirates a 72-68 lead. A quick basket by McRae and two missed free-throws gave the Scots the ball and some hope with just over a minute left in the game. McRae managed to tie the game at 72 with 49.3 seconds and Lumberton after running time off the clock called timeout with 24 seconds remaining.
Lumberton’s McCallum split his free throws after a Scots foul to give the Pirates a 73-72 lead with 18.4 seconds. McDonald made sure to extend Lumberton’s lead to three pulling down the rebound on the missed free throw and putting it right back up.
The Pirates put back and a quick basket by Ratliffe forced the Scots to call a timeout. Justin almost broke his clipboard in half when his team made it to the bench. A turnover on the inbound by Lumberton gave the Scots the opening they needed to win the game. On the inbound, the Pirates forced a jump ball, but the possession arrow favored the Scots.
With 4.3 seconds the Scots took their final timeout to set up the game winning shot — the Scots executed the plan, but the ball wouldn’t fall. The loss knocks the Scots out of the SEC tournament, but they still have a chance to make the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s 4A playoffs — those seedings will be released following the conference championships on Friday.
The Scots finish the season with an 11-14 overall record and Lumberton moves to 12-12 and will play No. 2 Richmond in Rockingham on Feb. 15 for a chance to advance to the SEC championship.
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.