LAURINBURG — One quarter was all it took for E.E. Smith to seize control of its boys basketball clash with Scotland.
The Golden Bulls, who trailed by two points at halftime, switched its defensive strategy against the Scots after the break and the decision paid immediate dividends.
E.E. Smith coach Kenneth Williams deployed a full-court pressure defense in the third quarter, and his players hounded the young Scots into multiple turnovers that led to easy baskets. The 24-22 deficit suddenly became a 53-35 E.E. Smith advantage by the end of the period, and from there the Golden Bulls cruised to a 73-57 win against Scotland in the season opener for Matt Justin’s program.
“The main difference was in the third quarter they went to a 1-3-1 defense and extended it out,” the Scots’ head coach said. “I don’t know how many turnovers we had, but that was the difference. We struggled to guard the ball in the half-court in the third quarter too.”
Both teams traded punches in the early going, as Scotland’s youthful roster filled with players who starred for the freshmen and junior varsity squads a year ago more than held their own against an E.E. Smith team that features five seniors.
The game was knotted up at 11-all after the first quarter, then the Scots grabbed a two-point lead before the break. Niem Ratliffe sank a free throw after getting fouled on a shot just before the halftime buzzer.
But in the third period, E.E. Smith went on a 25-7 run fueled by points off turnovers and bad offensive possessions for the Scots.
Arshon King was the catalyst for the Golden Bulls’ offense, scoring a game-high 23 points in the victory. Three other E.E Smith players reached double figures as well — Jahke Smith added 15 points, Talton Jones had 10 and Alexander Mims also chipped in 10.
Down by 18, Scotland attempted several rallies that evetually fell short. The Scots closed the gap to 12 points on several occasions, but could never hit a key basket to make in a single-digit contest and put game pressure back on the Golden Bulls.
In the fourth quarter, Scotland regathered itself and did a better job of dealing with the pressure defense, but at that point the outcome was already decided.
Despite the loss in his coaching debut, Justin admired the fight his team showed. He was particularly impressed with the play of senior guard Treshaun McIntyre and junior guard Tyrese Baucome, who scored 15 and 11 points respectively. Sophomore guard Niem Ratliffe was the only other double-digit scorer for the Scots with 12 points.
“I’m proud of the way the guys competed, it was the first varsity game for most of them and I thought they did a good job,” Justin said.
Scotland will return to the court Tuesday when it travels to face Union Pines. Justin expects his players to put on a better performance than they showcased in the opener.
“I think you’ll see a big improvement even from their first game to their second game,” he said. “I think they’ll be more comfortable in the second game, and as you see the season go on it’ll probably improve quiet a bit.”
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.