Both the Scotland girls and boys’ varsity squads have been facing their own obstacles since the holiday break.
While the girls started their season on a 6-0 tear through their competition, the final days of 2012 saw leading scorer and defending Southeastern Conference 4-A player of the year Jonissa Monley suffer a broken foot, which will sideline her until the end of January. Senior forward Quintavia Deberry has done an admirable job filling the void left behind by Monley, but the team has since struggled to rekindle their explosive offensive attack and front-court size in the games since. With Monley and senior forward Tuesday McLaurin out until next week, the team currently has just one true post-presence in the current lineup: Sophomore center Destiny Campbell.
The Fighting Scots’ boys squad, meanwhile, has added significant depth to their roster with the addition of brothers Artemis Robinson and Robert McKoy into the mix, which coach Jackie Amos hopes will spark a squad that failed to win a game in 2012.
With these storylines firmly in mind, both the girls and boys’ squads traveled to Laney High School in Wilmington for their first games of the new year. Unfortunately, both teams would eventually fall to the Buccaneers: The girls lost 47-31 while the boys fell to Laney by a score of 61-50.
For the lady Scots, a disheartening stroke of luck occurred with five minutes remaining in the second quarter after the team ended the first up 12-11 over Laney.
“We started off well until Ariel Ratcliff tweaked her ankle,” said lady Scots’ coach David Johnson. The starting point guard for Scotland, Ratcliff has been one of the cornerstones for the team in recent years, including playing a huge role in last season’s conference championship and playoff run. She currently leads the lady Scots in steals and assists-per-game.
“She came back in after halftime, but by that point we couldn’t make up ground against that team. They had the size and momentum advantage over us,” he said.
The lady Scots were down just six points when Ratcliff went down with an ankle injury. But in her absence, the team allowed Laney to build a double-digit lead that they would carry into halftime. Even though she wasn’t at 100 percent in the second half of regulation, Ratcliff nonetheless managed to grit her way to a team-high 13 points.
But Ratcliff’s gutsy performance wasn’t enough to stave off the worst offensive performance of the year for the lady Scots, and Laney remained in control for much of the duration.
“Every time we had a chance to make a run and get back into it, we committed turnovers,” Johnson said. “We had a solid fourth quarter, but in the end we were forced to foul them and they made nearly all of their free throws which put the game away.”
With the loss, the lady Scots fall to 8-2 on the year, while the lady Bucs improve to 11-1. As for Ratcliff, she is expected to play tonight in Scotland’s conference home-game against Purnell Swett, which kicks off at 6 p.m.
Though the girls suffered a stagnant overall game against Laney, the Scotland varsity boys put together “by far their best team effort” against the Buccaneers according to Amos.
From a pure scoring perspective, the Scots were a more productive team than Laney, sinking more baskets including six three-pointers on the night. Five of six from behind the arc belonged to Tra’Shawn Gregory (who hit three) and Robinson, the latter of whom led his teammates with 16-points in his first game with the 2012-13 varsity squad. Gregory would finish with 13-points, good for second on the team.
However, the Buccaneers led the Scots in two statistical categories: Shooting percentage and free throws made. And the combination of the two was enough to keep Scotland winless to start the latter half of their season.
“We played an extremely good game, but we just came up on the short end like we have all season,” Amos said. “In terms of offensive effort, we are there and can put up points. But crucial turnovers and our defense have been problems for us since the beginning.”
The Fighting Scots hung tight through the first two quarters, down just 24-19 heading into halftime. Scotland center Aly Kaba also led all teammates with eight rebounds on the night and has emerged in recent weeks as a legitimate post threat the Scots can rely upon.
But on the whole, Laney managed to make 18-24 free throws during their trips to the line, with Scotland going a paltry 0-3, and that ultimately was the difference in the game.
It was a disappointing night for both Johnson and Amos’ squads, but both coaches have their sights firmly set on tonight’s clash with the Rams which could give the girls and boys a boost heading into their crucial conference schedules.
“We expect to win that first conference game against Purnell Swett and run the conference table,” Amos said. “But we need everyone to have a perfect game and step it up for that to happen. The time is now for this team.”