LAURINBURG — It’s been almost five years since the Scotland girls basketball team last came up empty in its bid for a Southeastern Conference championship.
Former head coach David Johnson led the program to two consecutive conference crowns before departing in 2013, and current skipper Janie Hodges has directed the school to a pair of championships in each of her first two years.
Scotland, which has won 10 straight conference games dating back to last season, begins its quest for a fifth straight SEC title when it travels to Pembroke tonight to battle Purnell Swett (3-6) at 6 p.m.
The Scots (7-6) are playing their best basketball of the season as they enter the SEC portion of their schedule, having won five of their last six games after starting the year 2-5. Hodges’ team is coming off a hard-fought 45-39 overtime victory against Jack Britt on Tuesday, and the Scots are a little more than a week removed from a third-place finish at the Orangeburg County Sweet 16 tournament in South Carolina.
During the Hodges regime, Scotland has had a tendency of starting slow before finishing the year strong. The Scots hope that trend continues now that the conference slate has arrived.
During Hodges’ inaugural season as coach, Scotland limped out of the gate with a 2-6 record before winning seven straight contests at one point to finish 11-9 overall and 9-1 in the SEC. Last year, the Scots were 5-8 heading into conference play before reeling off 11 consecutive victories to finish 16-9 and a perfect 10-0 against conference foes.
“I think it just goes back to our kids’ desire and passion,” Hodges said. “We’ve been running the same stuff for three years now — buying in is a constant issue with us but we always seem to buy in around conference time. Hopefully we can continue that streak and keep it going.”
Scotland is led by a trio of two-time all-SEC performers in senior Ashlyn Dial, junior ShanQaylia Stanton and junior Khasiya Sellers.
Stanton has posted season averages of 13 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 3.3 steals per game, and Sellers is also averaging double figures with 10 points and 9.5 rebounds per contest.
Dial is on the cusp of averaging double-digit scoring (9.6 points), and is second on the team in assists (2.4) and steals (2.5).
“In the games that we’ve won, we’ve had about two or three girls score double digits,” Hodges said. “It would be nice to get four, so that requires everyone doing their part and finishing the baskets that they know how to finish.”
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.