LAURINBURG — Scotland’s three-game win streak against arch-rival Richmond Senior is no more.
The visiting Raiders blitzed the Scots from the onset, racing out to an 18-0 lead before the red-and blue-clad faithful could even blink. Though Scotland was able to rebound from that dismal start and eventually grab a one-point lead in the second quarter, Richmond’s relentless pressure defense proved to be too much for the hosts to handle as the Raiders ran away with a 112-81 victory Tuesday night.
“I didn’t have them ready to play at the start, and that’s a huge lead to overcome even in a game like that with that many possessions,” Scotland head coach Matt Justin said.
The defeat was Scotland’s first in Southeastern Conference play, and it is the first time Richmond has bested the Scots on the hardwood since 2014. Scotland (8-8, 3-1 in the SEC) swept the Raiders in their two meetings last year, and Matt Justin’s squad defeated Richmond 94-85 in the third-place game of the Holiday in the Pines tournament in late December.
But Tuesday’s game looked nothing like its predecessor as Richmond’s fast-past attacked had the Scots rattled from the opening tip.
“We talked about some things in practice this week from our last game about tightening up our press and doing a better job, and we did those things,” said Richmond head coach David Laton. “Getting the ball out quickly, that was a key thing for us early on too.”
After the Raiders jumped out to an 18-0 lead, Scotland was able to collect itself and seize momentum entering the second quarter. Senior guard Willie Douglas drilled a deep 3-pointer as the first quarter buzzer sounded to close the deficit to 23-16.
In the second period, the Scots held two leads — 27-26, then 40-39 — but Richmond ended the first half on a 12-3 run to take an eight-point lead into the break. Then after the Scots closed the gap to 51-48, the Raiders outscored the Scots 11-1 over the next three minutes to grasp control of the contest.
“I think, to a certain extent, that’s draining physically and mentally to know that you’re down — we had a big crowd here, it’s a rivalry game — you’re down 18-0, then you get back and get the lead and that’s a big emotional swing,” Justin said.
Scotland fell into the trap of playing to Richmond’s tempo, and the Raiders made Justin’s squad pay by forcing turnover after turnover that resulted in countless transition layups. When Richmond (11-6, 3-2 in the SEC) wasn’t converting shots in the paint, they were drawing fouls and converting at the charity stripe. Justin said the Raiders deployed a different type of press Tuesday than they showcased a month ago in the first bout between the two rivals.
“The thing that they did different than during the holiday tournament was that it wasn’t a zone press, it was man-to-man and trapping as soon as they got it in,” Justin said.
Douglas led all scorers with 33 points, and sophomore Niem Ratliffe and senior Randy Leak tallied 14 for the Scots.
Laton said all but two of his players scored in the win. Jaylon Terry paced the Raiders with 24 points, and Leon Zeigler followed with 23.
“It’s a big conference win for us tonight,” Laton said.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.