RAEFORD —With Tuesday’s rematch against Lumberton looming, it would have been easy for the Scotland girls basketball team to get caught looking ahead instead of focusing on Friday night’s opponent, Hoke.
If both Scotland and Lumberton won Friday, next week’s tilt between the two programs would likely decide the winner of the Southeastern Conference championship.
The Bucks came close to spoiling the Scots’ shot at contending for its fifth straight conference crown, rallying from double-digit deficits in both halves to close within one point with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. But the Scots did what champions do, closing the contest on a 6-2 run to clinch a 48-43 victory.
Four of those points came from the free-throw line, as ShanQaylia Stanton and Amaya Pegues hit four straight shots from the charity stripe down the stretch to give the visitors from Laurinburg the cushion they needed to escape Raeford with the win.
Hoke (10-10, 4-4 SEC) trailed 40-29 during the beginning stages of the fourth quarter, but the Bucks closed the gap to 42-41 with 2:32 remaining after going on a 12-2 run. The Scots’ defense held firm the rest of the way, though, as Hoke didn’t make a shot from the field and its only two points came on a pair of free throws with two seconds remaining.
Shanton led all scorers with 22 points and she also dished out three assists. Pegues tallied eight points and seven rebounds.
Mahogany Matthews paced the Bucks with 17 points.
Scotland (14-8, 7-1 SEC) will now have the chance to force a tie atop the conference standings when it welcomes Lumberton to Laurinburg next week. The Pirates improved to 8-0 in the SEC after defeating Richmond Senior.
Boys lose 2nd straight
The Scotland boys basketball team dropped its second straight contest Friday night, falling to Hoke 73-66.
The loss created more chaos in the SEC standings as three teams now wield 5-3 records in conference play after Friday’s results — Scotland, Hoke and Richmond Senior.
Pinecrest, which entered the night tied with the Scots atop the conference, put away Purnell Swett to improve to 6-2 in the league.
Down 63-53 with 2:51 remaining, Scotland stormed back to make a game of it in the waning moments. The Scots notched seven points in a little over 30 seconds thanks to Randy Leak, who scored a basket, then stole the following Hoke inbounds pass and converted a layup while drawing a foul. He sank the free throw to cut the deficit to 64-60 with 2:15 left.
But the Scots had too many empty offensive possessions down the stretch to get any closer than three points, though Willie Douglas did keep the visitors in it with 11 fourth-quarter points.
After Douglas hit a pair of free throws to make it 69-66, Scotland was forced to foul with 25 seconds remaining. Hoke’s Wesley Baldwin calmly stepped up to the line and sank the first free throw, but he missed the second attempt. However, Scotland was called for a lane violation, allowing Baldwin to have a second chance at the line. This time, he nailed the shot and put the Bucks up by five, all but ending the Scots’ comeback bid.
Douglas finished with a team-high 24 points for Scotland and Leak added 11.
Hoke showcased a balanced attack as five or more players scored in three of the four quarters. D’coda Cummings led the team with 17 points, and Baldwin notched 16 while Silas Love finished with 13 points.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.