LAURINBURG — The first time the Scotland boys basketball team took the floor against Jack Britt this season, the Scots failed to put a single point on the scoreboard in the first quarter.
In fact, during that 43-40 overtime victory against the Buccaneers in Hope Mills on Dec. 16, they didn’t make a basket until midway through the second period.
The Scots had no such trouble Tuesday in the rematch at Scotland Gym in Laurinburg, as the hosts built a double-digit lead by halftime and coasted to a 56-46 victory to improve to 5-7 on the season.
“The first time we played, you could tell our pressure affected (Jack Britt),” Scotland coach Matt Justin said. “You could tell they struggled with taking care of the ball. I think the combination of our press, and we made some outside shots today compared to the first time we played, was the biggest difference.”
Sophomore guard Niem Ratliffe continued his torrid shooting streak from last week’s Holiday in the Pines tournament, scoring a game-high 25 points. Ratliffe tallied 39 the last time he suited up in Scotland red and blue, helping the Scots defeat Richmond in last Wednesday’s third-place game.
He didn’t fill up the stat sheet quite as much as he did a week ago, but his scoring prowess was just as important as no other Scot cracked double digits. Senior Willie Douglas was second on the squad with nine points.
Justin said after the win that he wanted his young team to build on last week’s stellar showing in Southern Pines given that the Southeastern Conference schedule looms just around the corner.
“We didn’t want to lose what we had, and I think for the first 20 minutes of the game we played pretty well overall,” Justin said.
Scotland led by as many as 22 points in the third quarter and took a 20-point advantage into the final period, but Jack Britt went on a run to close it to single digits with 3:21 remaining.
That’s when Ratliffe put the game on ice.
Just as the Buccaneer contingent in the crowd was getting back into the game with the score 47-38, Ratliffe swished a 3-pointer while drawing a foul. He knocked down the free throw to convert the four-point play, then on the next Scotland offensive possession, the 5-foot-10 guard splashed home another shot from behind the arc to quell the Jack Britt comeback attempt.
“It was a good win,” Justin said. “It showed we’ve improved since a couple of weeks ago.”
The Buccaneers (4-10) were paced by the inside play of 6-foot-9 center Immanuel Bates, who scored 19 points. Teammate Nate Johnson added 12 points in defeat.
Jack Britt opted for a full-court press defensive look during the final minutes in a last-ditch effort to get back into the game, but Scotland broke through it easily with swift and precise passing.
“We did a good job of finishing the game against their pressure, which was good to see,” Justin said. “I think it’s a step in the right direction heading into conference.”
Scotland will begin SEC action when it visits Purnell Swett Friday.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.