A common theme has plagued the junior varsity Fighting Scots (15-3) in their three regular season losses, which have been decided by a combined four points.
In those three games, Scotland has faltered down the stretch and blown leads in the closing minutes. And welcoming conference-foe Lumberton Tuesday night, the Scots almost let it happen again.
After a late-third quarter flurry by the Pirates, Scotland saw their double-digit lead disappear as Lumberton battled back to begin the fourth quarter down just 46-43.
But once the final eight minutes began, Scotland did what they failed to do before in their frustrating losses: They closed the door. And against Lumberton, the Scots completely dominated the fourth quarter on both ends to earn a much-needed 64-47 confidence-boosting win.
After the victory, Scotland finds themselves in second place behind Richmond in the conference, with one more game between the Scots and Raiders possibly deciding who finishes the season on top.
“We’ve worked on the reasons why we’ve lost games late every day in practice,” said Scotland coach Megil McLean. “I think those losses got in their heads a little bit, but I encouraged them to focus and continue to do what we do while minimizing our turnovers. If we play our game and don’t turn the ball over, those losses all become wins.”
Scotland finished the first quarter on a tear as the Scots imposed their offensive and defensive will over Lumberton early. The Scots went up 12-5 over Lumberton at the 3:40 mark after forward Randy Leak made an acrobatic reverse layup, and Scotland continued firing on all cylinders on the offensive end.
Defensively the Scots fared even better, holding Lumberton to just seven first-quarter points on 3-12 shooting. A buzzer-beating three from Jordan Ratliffe made the score 17-7 in Scotland’s favor after the first quarter.
Scotland continued to pour it on in the second quarter, but Lumberton kept pace after a three-pointer from Stephon Green pulled the Pirates to within double-digits with just over two minutes left in the half. The Scots entered halftime with a 33-25 lead over Lumberton.
At the 4:30 mark in the third quarter, Scotland power forward Jaylend Ratliffe led a breakaway and finished it emphatically with a thunderous dunk to make the score 42-29 in Scotland’s favor. However, this was the lone highlight of a third quarter which Lumberton controlled down the stretch, led by guard Will Everette who scored six points in the span of a minute to help his team turn a surefire blowout into a nail-biter.
And then the fourth quarter came. And with it, Scotland did much to alleviate the collapses which defined their earlier losses.
The Scots’ defense was simply smothering in the final minutes of regulation, as Lumberton looked lost on the offensive end. The Pirates as a whole went 0 for their first 12 shots, and failed to score a basket for the first six minutes of the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile the Ratliffe brothers provided the offensive early on, as both Jordan and Jaylend each had three-point plays which resulted from sinking layups as they were being fouled. Jaylend Ratliffe scored seven of his game-high 14 points in the quarter, while Jordan added 12 of his own in the game.
Scotland center Jeremias Easterling added 10 points and Travis Miles contributed 11 points against Lumberton as well.
Scotland’s next game is at home tonight against Terry Sanford, with the girls’ JV squad set to kick things off at 5 p.m.