LAURINBURG — Last season when Scotland and Marlboro County met on the hardwood in Laurinburg, the rivals engaged in a defensive slugfest that saw the two combine for 51 points.
The Scots scored 52 points in their meeting with the Bulldogs Tuesday, but it wasn’t nearly enough to outpace a Marlboro team that put up 53 through three quarters en route to a 72-52 victory.
Scotland, which swept the season series from Marlboro a season ago, jumped out to a first-quarter lead but never regained it after the second quarter.
The Bulldogs used superior size and length to dominate the rebounding battle and they were balanced on offense. It was the season opener for James Pate’s squad and they played with the energy and passion that Scots coach Matt Justin felt his team lacked.
“They had more size, but I didn’t have them ready to play,” Justin said. “I felt like we got out-competed for loose balls and the other team seemed like they had more energy.”
Senior guard Justin McRae tried to provide that spark for the Scots early, scoring 11 points in the opening period. But he was held to just two points the rest of the way as Scotland’s offense stalled against an athletic Marlboro lineup.
The Bulldogs trailed 16-13 after the first period but grabbed a 31-25 halftime lead.
Up 37-30 in the third quarter, Marlboro then went on a 16-5 run to swell its advantage to 18 entering the fourth.
For most of the quarter, Scotland’s offense consisted of tough, contested jump shots from senior guard Willie Douglas. Though he scored seven points in the period, only one other Scot (senior guard Daekwon Tyson) cracked the box score.
“It seemed like on offense, we were stagnant,” Justin said. “The ball should have energy, but there was a lot of standing on offense but we’ll get it corrected.”
The Scots showed signs of life to begin the fourth quarter, as reserves Robert Murdock and Tre Dixon provided a nice lift off the bench. Justin switched to a pressing defense that resulted in a couple of steals to help Scotland close the deficit to 14.
“The whole night I really couldn’t find a lineup, but I wish I had went to that lineup and the press earlier,” Justin said.
But Marlboro regained its composure after Pate signaled for a timeout — the Bulldogs subsequently broke the press on several trips down the floor which resulted in easy layups.
Marlboro Point guard Zayquan Clark used flashy ball-handling and passing to reduce the effectiveness of the Scotland press, and the Bulldogs’ tall forwards, particularly Demingus Wilson, Dante Green and Fredrickus Brown, used their height to bully their way inside and convert easy baskets.
Douglas scored 15 points to pace Scotland while McRae had 13. Clark tallied 15 points for Marlboro while Green contributed 14 and Wilson added 13.
Scotland dropped to 1-2 this season while Marlboro improved to 1-0.
The Scots will take the floor for their next game Thursday at E.E. Smith.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.