LAURINBURG — The first time Scotland and Lumberton met this season, the Pirates led most of the way before faltering in the fourth quarter, allowing the Scots to overcome an eight-point deficit to force overtime.
Scotland would go on to win that Jan. 27 contest in the extra session, but Lumberton coach Brandon Meadows said after the defeat that his team lost the game in regulation due to poor shot selection and turnovers forced by the Scots’ full-court pressure defense.
Lumberton found itself in the same situation during Tuesday’s rematch, but this time, the Pirates slammed the door shut on the Scots’ comeback bid. Meadows’ squad built a 10-point lead entering the fourth quarter and never allowed the hosts to get any closer than five, winning 71-59 to spoil Scotland’s senior night festivities.
“We’re growing up some, it’s tough that it’s this late in the season but I can honestly stand here and say that we can be the best team in this conference” Meadows said. “We lost to Richmond in a tough one Friday, and I thought that might take the wind out of the rest of our season. But the guys stepped and answered the call.”
Lumberton (9-13, 4-5 SEC) controlled the action from the opening tip as six different players scored in the first quarter to help the Pirates take a 17-15 advantage heading into the second period. Scotland (10-11, 5-4 SEC), as it has for much of its three-game losing streak, struggled to hit outside shots. Matt Justin’s team didn’t hit a 3-pointer during the first half and only made one during the course of the contest.
“If you’re not making shots from the perimeter, you definitely need to be even or win the rebounding battle and probably win the turnover battle too and it seems like lately we’ve struggled to make any perimeter shots,” Justin said.
The Pirates led 33-28 at halftime, but the Scots were able to close the gap to two during the final minute of the third quarter. However, the visitors ended the period on an 8-0 run that was fueled by Scotland turnovers in the half court which led to easy transition baskets.
“Turnovers for straight, direct wide-open layups are backbreakers, especially if you have three, four, five of them in a game,” Justin said.
Trailing 53-43 entering the fourth quarter, Scotland opted for a full-court pressure look in an attempt to rattle Lumberton like it did under similar circumstances two weeks ago. Though the Scots closed it to 64-59 after a Niem Ratliffe layup, they never got any closer as the Pirates made efficient passes and converted their layups after breaking the press.
“We’re fortunate enough to come out of here with a win,” Meadows said. “We protected the ball — that was a huge thing. We could have easily folded when that pressure hit us.”
Randy Leak finished with 14 points for the Scots, and Willie Douglas and Daekwon Tyson added 13 and 10 respectively. Josh Smith paced Lumberton with 20 points and Tyreik McCallum chipped in 16.
Scotland will look to end its three-game skid Friday when it travels to Rockingham to battle rival Richmond Senior.
‘It’s disappointing to not send (the seniors) off with a win for probably their last home game, but at the same time I’m proud of them,” Justin said. “They stuck it out, competed and gave a good effort.”
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.