SOUTHERN PINES — A day after erupting for a season-high 80 points in Monday’s first-round win over New Life Christian Academy, Scotland managed just half of that output when it returned to the floor Tuesday for the semifinals of the Holiday in the Pines tournament.
Pinecrest (11-0) held the Scots to 40 points to remain undefeated this season, defeating the visitors from Laurinburg 50-40. The double-digit win advances the Patriots to tonight’s championship game hosted inside its home gym.
Scotland (3-7) more than held its own against the Patriots, however, remaining within striking distance throughout. The game was tied at 8-all after the first quarter and Pinecrest held a marginal 17-16 advantage at halftime. But a 7-0 Pinecrest run to open the second half helped the Patriots build a lead as high as 12 points in the fourth quarter before Scotland made it interesting in the waning moments.
Down 41-29 with five minutes remaining, the Scots reverted to a full-court pressure defense and forced a number of Pinecrest miscues, which allowed the visitors to score quick transition baskets. Over the course of a little less than four minutes, Scotland went on a 11-2 spurt capped by a 3-pointer from sophomore Justin McRae with 1:13 remaining.
On the next Pinecrest possession, Kenston Gillespie sank one of two free throws after drawing a foul. Scotland had an opportunity to close it to a one possession game but McRae committed a traveling violation while driving through the paint. On the ensuing Patriots inbound, Scotland was called for a technical foul because one of its players voiced displeasure over a ruling by one of the referees.
Pinecrest’s Brandon Harrell calmly stepped up to the charity stripe and sank two free throws with 58 seconds left, extending the Patriots’ lead to six points and all but ending the Scotland comeback attempt.
McRae was the only Scotland player to crack double-digit scoring with 15 points, all coming after intermission. Harrell led Pinecrest with 20 points and Will Lassiter chipped in 11.
With the victory, the Patriots advanced to today’s championship tilt of the Holiday in the Pines tournament where they will clash with Mount Zion at 7:30 p.m. The Durham-based program knocked off Richmond Senior 81-79 in the other semifinal contest, setting up a third-place matchup between Scotland and the Raiders.
Scotland and Richmond renew their rivalry today at 6 p.m., but as was the case for the Scotland-Pinecrest battle, the game will not count towards the Southeastern Conference standings because it is a non-conference tournament matchup.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.