SOUTHERN PINES — Parity has reigned supreme during the Southeastern Conference season, and that trend continued Tuesday.
Scotland, which entered the night leading the conference by one game, had the opportunity to increase that advantage to two with three SEC contests remaining if it defeated Pinecrest on the Patriots’ home floor.
It was the rubber match between the two programs — Pinecrest defeated Scotland during a non-conference tournament tilt in December, and the Scots avenged that loss with an overtime win over the Patriots in January that counted towards the SEC standings.
But just as it did during the Holiday in the Pines tournament, Pinecrest controlled the pace of play and limited Scotland’s outside shooting en route to a 54-47 victory.
Pinecrest (17-3, 5-2 SEC) notched the first points of the game and never relinquished its lead, holding Scotland (10-9, 5-2 SEC) to six first-quarter points.
The Patriots came out on fire from behind the arc, hitting four straight 3-pointers. Donnie Haith drilled a pair of treys, and Brandon Harrell and Will Lassiter each added one. Pinecrest led 16-6 after the first period and though its offense cooled in the second quarter, Scotland only managed to score 12 first-half points.
After Pinecrest scored the first bucket of the second half, Scotland retaliated with a 7-0 spurt to close the gap to 24-19. But the Patriots responded with a 6-0 run of their own to extend the lead back to 11 points.
Pincrest held a 32-22 advantage entering the fourth quarter, but the Scots fought their way back thanks to Willie Douglas. Douglas scored 12 points in the period as Scotland clawed within as close as five on several different occasions. However, each time the Scots made it a two-possession game, Pinecrest had an answer.
Scotland coach Matt Justin tried to speed the Patriots up with a full-court pressure look, but Haith and his teammates regularly broke the press with precise passes.
Haith scored a team-high 17 points for Pinecrest while Lassiter added 12. Douglas paced Scotland with 18 points and Justin McRae netted 12.
After Tuesday’s results, Scotland and Pinecrest are tied for first place in the SEC with identical 5-2 records. Hoke and Richmond Senior trail with 4-3 marks. Lumberton is two games back at 3-4.
Lady Scots sweep Patriots
Scotland stayed within striking distance of Lumberton in the SEC race, defeating Pinecrest 48-41 Tuesday night to record its sixth conference victory.
The Pirates remained undefeated in conference play after downing Hoke 52-42.
The Scots (13-8, 6-1 SEC) started off strong on the offensive end of the floor, tallying 19 first-quarter points as five different players broke into the box score.
Scotland’s attack stagnated for much of the second quarter and its offense went through several lulls through periods of the second half, but Janie Hodges’ team was able to hold off a Pinecrest squad looking to avoid the season sweep.
Ashlyn Dial notched 14 points to lead the Scots while ShanQaylia Stanton and Khasiya Sellers tacked on 12 points and 11 points respectively.
LaBrittia McCain was the only Patriots to hit double-figure scoring with 14 points. Brianna Embler and Tamaya Leak added nine points apiece.
Scotland led 19-11 after the first period, but Pinecrest (8-9, 2-5 SEC) closed the deficit to three just before the break after Embler drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
However, Scotland widened the gap once again as Stanton and Dial combined to score 10 points in the third quarter. McCain sank a 2-point jump shot at the end of the period to keep the Patriots within striking distance at 39-32.
But Pinecrest only hit two field goals during the final eight minutes, ending any hope it had at mounting a comeback.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.