LAURINBURG — Southeastern Conference hoops teams are slated to play each Tuesday and Friday during the conference season, but Mother Nature tossed an icy wrench into that schedule for the Scotland boys and girls basketball teams last week.
A winter storm that prompted North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory to declare a state of emergency on Thursday forced the Scots to postpone their Friday contests against Lumberton. The boys and girls contests were pushed back to this Wednesday, which will force Scotland to play three games in five days this week.
Meanwhile the rest of the SEC, except for Lumberton, moved their matchups up from last Friday to Thursday, which allowed them to stay on course for the usual Tuesday/Friday slate of games this week.
On Friday, Scotland boys coach Matt Justin said he “wished we played tonight like the other teams.” Now facing a trio of conference contests spanning a five-day stretch, the boys and girls squads will have their respective mettle and depth tested as they begin play tonight at home against Richmond Senior.
Girls look to extend SEC win streak
Scotland hosts the first of two homes games this week when it welcomes arch-rival Richmond to Laurinburg tonight. The Raiders (5-7, 1-3 in the SEC) have already notched as many conference wins as they did all of last season as first-year head coach Rosalind McDonald continues to build her program.
The Scots (10-7, 3-0 in the SEC) have won five of their last six contests, with their lone blemish coming on the road to Milbrook on Jan. 18. During that recent stretch, Scotland was won in blowout fashion (a 58-37 road victory at Purnell Swett; a 51-32 win home win against Hoke) and came out on top in a couple of nail-biters (a 45-39 overtime victory at home versus Jack Britt; a 46-43 home win against Pinecrest).
Should the Scots down the Raiders, Janie Hodges’ squad will have its SEC winning streak put to the test when they travel to Lumberton Wednesday to tangle with the Pirates (13-1, 3-0 in the SEC). Dating back to last year, Scotland has reeled off 13 straight conference wins and the program has captured four straight SEC regular-season championships overall, but this year’s Lumberton squad could provide the sternest challenge to the Scots’ reign of dominance.
If the Pirates defeat rival Purnell Swett Tuesday, Danny Grahan’s team will enter the Scotland tilt with only one loss on the year. In Lumberton’s three conference wins, the Pirates have outscored their opponents by an average of almost 22 points per game.
Scotland will conclude its week Friday when it plays host to Purnell Swett (3-10, 0-4 in the SEC). The Scots defeated the Rams by 21 points in their most recent meeting on Jan. 8. Junior center Khasiya Sellers led the Scots in the win with 17 points and 19 rebounds, and senior guard Ashlyn Dial chipped in 14 points, five assists and six steals.
Boys top SEC standings after 3 games
Not only has the Scotland boys team started the conference season 3-0, Matt Justin’s group has done so with a pair of wins against the second- and third-place schools in the SEC standings.
The Scots (8-7, 3-0 in the SEC) have won six of their last seven games to rebound from a 2-6 start to the year, and they scored two important home victories in a four-day span against Pinecrest and Hoke. Scotland, which lost to the Patriots 50-41 in the semifinals of the Holiday in the Pines tournament on Dec. 29, avenged that defeat by beating Pinecrest 69-67 in overtime on Jan. 15. Last Tuesday, the Scots downed the Bucks 67-56, taking control of a game in which Hoke led at halftime.
Scotland begins its three-game slate with Richmond, a team the Scots have already knocked off once this year. The two rivals met on Dec. 30 in the third-place game of the Holiday in the Pines tourney, and Scotland rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit to notch a 94-85 victory.
While it was an pivotal win for the Scots, the outcome will not have an effect on the SEC race because it was a non-conference contest.
Sophomore Niem Ratliffe led all scorers with 39 points that day, and he also racked up eight rebounds, five assists and five steals. Sophomore Justin McRae netted 14 points and eight rebounds, and senior Willie Douglas tacked on 13 points.
Scotland has defeated Richmond three straight times dating back to last season, and the schools will meet once again in the regular-season finale on Feb. 12.
Lumberton (5-10, 0-3 in the SEC) is set to welcome Scotland to Robeson County on Wednesday, and the Scots will wrap up their week Friday at home versus Purnell Swett. The Scots subdued the Rams 72-66 in their first meeting on Jan. 8. Ratliffe scored 20 points, McRae had 15 points and six assists and junior Donta Green added 10 points and seven rebounds to help Scotland win its SEC opener.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.