BENNETTSVILLE, S.C. — The Marlboro County Bulldogs stormed into Laurinburg on Dec. 1 and rolled to a 20-point win over their rivals from Scotland County.
But for three quarters in the rematch Thursday in Bennettsville, Scotland was the team that played like it had something to prove.
The Scots’ trapping zone defense threw off the offensive rhythm of the taller and more athletic Bulldogs, who at one point only had 22 points through two-and-a-half quarters after scoring 72 in the first meeting between the two programs.
But Marlboro found its edge late in the third period, rallying from a seven-point deficit to take a two-point leading heading into the fourth quarter. In the final eight minutes, the Bulldogs outscored the Scots 17-7 to pull away for a 50-38 victory. The win completed the season sweep of their nemesis to the north.
Fredrickus Brown was the catalyst during the 28-9 spurt that put Scotland away, scoring 10 points, eight of which came in the fourth quarter. Brown thundered home back-to-back dunks, including one that he was fouled on at the 4:08 mark, that ended up giving Marlboro the cushion it needed to secure the double-digit win.
Scotland fell to 2-6 with the loss while Marlboro now sits at 5-1.
The Bulldogs’ length and activity on the glass was the difference in the contest, but the Scots largely neutralized that aspect of the host’s game for much of the night.
In their first meeting more than two weeks ago, Marlboro dictated the pace for most of the 32 minutes until Scotland utilized a full-court press in the fourth quarter. Scots coach Matt Justin said at the time that he wished he had deployed the strategy earlier in the contest, but was reluctant to do so because of the Bulldogs’ quickness and efficiency running up the floor.
He learned from that mistake, showcasing the press from the opening tip with stellar results. Marlboro was held to nine first-quarter points and despite its size, had trouble converting shots in the paint. Scotland didn’t force many steals when it trapped the Bulldogs, but Marlboro was clearly rattled by the Scots’ ramped up defensive intensity.
However, Scotland’s offense, which didn’t score a point until the second quarter of its overtime win over Jack Britt Wednesday, struggled once again. Justin McRae was the only Scot who appeared comfortable on that side of the floor, scoring four first-quarter points.
McRae hit a 3-pointer in the second quarter and handed out a pair of flashy assists while driving to the basket to keep the Scotland offense afloat.
Both teams had to work for each basket, and by halftime Marlboro held a 22-21 advantage.
The Scots began the third quarter on an 8-0 run to take a 29-22 lead, silencing the Bulldog crowd while awakening the blue-and-red clad fans in attendance. Niem Ratliffe knocked down a pair of shots and McRae added two more points to his resume.
That was when Marlboro had seen enough.
Point guard Demetrius Knox, who was the catalyst in Marlboro’s first victory between the two teams, struggled with his shot for much of the night before scoring four points during an 11-2 run to put the Bulldogs on top for good.
Scotland made only two shots from the field in the final eight minutes while Marlboro found its groove. 6-8 center Cameron Johnson scored four points in the quarter, 6-6 forward Kijana Johnson added seven and the 6-7 Brown notched eight as the Bulldogs’ length took over the game.
McRae paced Scotland with 12 points and was the only Scot to crack double-digit scoring. Brown led all scorers, finishing with 19 points while Knox tacked on 12.
Scotland is off until Dec. 28 when it will participate in the Holiday in the Pines tournament in Southern Pines.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.