LUMBERTON — Down eight in the fourth quarter, Scotland coach Matt Justin inserted a couple of reserves off the bench with the hope that they would provide a spark.
The move paid off handsomely for the visiting Scots, as bench players Daekwon Tyson, Alexander Farmer and Treshaun McIntyre all played big-time minutes to help the visitors stage a fourth-quarter rally against host Lumberton. Scotland forced overtime, and in the extra session, it was a starter that lifted the Scots to an important Southeastern Conference victory.
Willie Douglas drilled a contested 3-pointer with one second remaining as Scotland sunk the Pirates 72-69 Wednesday night to notch its fourth conference victory.
“They could have called a foul too because (the defender) was leaning on him,” said Scotland head coach Matt Justin after the win. “It was an unbelievable shot.”
Lumberton head coach Brandon Meadows said his defense couldn’t have played the final attempt any better, but mentioned Douglas’ dagger from the outside wasn’t what decided the contest.
“That shot didn’t lose the game, the last four minutes of the fourth quarter lost it,” he said. “Shot selection, ball management, player personnel. I’ll have to swallow this one for the team.”
During those final four minutes, Tyson and Farmer brought a much-needed defensive intensity off the bench for a Scotland team that struggled to stop drives and defend the post for much of the night. Both players finished with eight points, but it was their effort on the other side of the court that caught Justin’s eye.
“I feel like one through 13 the kids are pretty competitive with one another in practice,” Justin said. “It’s definitely huge for us, especially in a game like this where we have three games in one week to be able to go deep into the bench. Some guys might come in and change the game with their energy, and that’s what happened tonight.”
McIntyre entered the game in overtime and notched three points while also playing stellar defense.
Before Scotland mounted its comeback, Lumberton controlled the action with its proficiency in the paint. Mike Dunbar had his way in the post against the shorter Scots’ front line, scoring 12 first-half points. The Pirates entered the halftime break up 32-30, then built their advantage to 52-44 heading in the final quarter.
Scotland slowly fought its way back, eventually tying the game at 57-all after Niem Ratliffe converted a layup with 2:32 remaining. Lumberton regained the lead with one minute left when Jamison Hill tipped in a shot off of an offensive rebound, but Ratliffe answered with another layup with less than 20 seconds to go.
Lumberton would have the final chance to win it but Tyleik Brown’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer clanged off the iron, sending the game into overtime.
The Pirates led 66-60 with 2:35 remaining in the extra session, but the Scots once again showed their resilience, scoring seven points in 50 seconds to knot the contest at 67-all. Ratliffe made a layup to give Scotland a 69-67 lead, then Tyreik McCallum tied the game once more when he sank a pair of free throws after drawing a foul.
Scotland held the ball for the final 1:13 of overtime in order to get off the final shot. Lumberton’s defense didn’t allow any drives or passes into the paint, which resulted in Douglas’ rushed attempt shortly before the buzzer. Stephon Lloyd took away all of Douglas’ air space, but it didn’t phase the lanky senior as he sank the game-winner.
Niem Ratliffe and Douglas were Scotland’s top scorers with 16 points apiece, and Justin McRae tacked on 10.
Lumberton was paced by Dunbar and McCallum, who finished with 22 and 19 points respectively.
The victory keeps Scotland at the top of the SEC standings with a 4-1 conference record, and the Scots improved to 9-8 overall.
“It’s a huge swing,” Justin said.
Lumberton dropped to 5-11 overall and 1-4 after the defeat.
“Tip your hat to them, they played great. They didn’t give up,” Meadows said.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.