LAURINBURG — The final Friday of the Southeastern Conference basketball regular season is here, and the race for the boys and girls championships remain undecided entering tonight’s action.
On the girls’ side, the scenario is simple — if Scotland and Lumberton defeat Richmond Senior and Purnell Swett respectively, the two programs will share the conference crown with identical 9-1 records.
If the Scots fall to their rivals to the west and the Pirates take care of the Rams, Lumberton would clinch an outright SEC championship, its first since 2010. The same scenario would come into play for Scotland if it downs Richmond and Lumberton is upset by its county foe. Scotland has won four straight SEC titles and three in a row under current coach Janie Hodges.
Scotland rolled Richmond 60-46 in the first matchup on Jan. 26, and Lumberton dismantled Purnell Swett 68-7 the same night.
The Scots and Pirates split their regular season meetings, and it was Hodges’ squad that came away with the all-important victory in their matchup Tuesday in Laurinburg. Scotland came back from a fourth-quarter deficit to edge Lumberton 61-58 to force a tie atop the standings. Had the Pirates won, they would have swept the season series from the Scots — Lumberton defeated Scotland 59-52 the first time the two schools met on the hardwood on Jan. 27.
The championship picture is a little murkier on the boys’ side as three schools have a shot at winning the crown. Hoke, Pinecrest and Richmond all wield 6-3 conference records, but the Bucks and Patriots will clash tonight in a titanic showdown in Southern Pines. The winner of that contest will clinch at least a share of the SEC title and potentially the outright championship depending on the result of the Scotland-Richmond tilt. Pinecrest escaped Raeford with a 70-61 double-overtime victory the first time it took the floor against Hoke on Jan. 26.
The Raiders and Scots will meet for a third time tonight, and Matt Justin’s team could potentially play the spoiler role in Rockingham. Scotland was in the driver’s seat of winning its second straight conference championship for much of the season, but three straight losses down the stretch has eliminated the Scots from the race.
Scotland defeated Richmond 94-85 in the first meeting on Dec. 30 in the third-place game of the Holiday in the Pines tournament, but the Raiders returned the favor by blowing out the Scots 112-81 in the rematch on Jan. 26.
While Scotland has faltered in recent weeks, Richmond is perhaps playing its best basketball of the season entering the rivalry matchup. The Raiders have won three in row to put themselves in prime position to at least share a conference title with the winner of the Pinecrest-Hoke contest. Should the Scots score the upset in enemy territory, the winner of Pinecrest-Hoke would stand alone atop the conference standings.
If Richmond defeats Scotland and the Bucks take care of the Patriots, the Raiders and Bucks would split the championship but Hoke would earn the No. 1 seed in next week’s SEC tournament courtesy of its season sweep of Richmond. If Pinecrest handles Hoke and Richmond takes care of business, the Patriots and Raiders would share the crown and a coin flip would decide the No. 1 seed in the SEC tourney as the teams split their regular season meetings.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.