ROCKINGHAM — Once in control of the Southeastern Conference race, the Scotland boys basketball team entered Saturday’s regular-season finale with a shot at spoiling another team’s chances at winning a conference championship.
The Scots’ opponent, Richmond Senior, needed to defeat its arch-rival if it wanted to earn a share of the SEC title for the second straight season. And though the Raiders allowed the Scots to rally from an 18-point fourth-quarter deficit in a game where defense was optional, David Laton’s squad put together a 10-0 run in the final three minutes to notch a 112-105 win.
“I’m very pleased, it’s been a great season,” Laton said moments after the victory. “It’s nice to be in first place, even if you share it, it’s nice to be in first. I’m very pleased for these guys, they really play well together and I’m happy for them.”
Richmond (15-8, 7-3 SEC) split the SEC championship with Hoke, which downed Pinecrest 63-48 Friday. The Bucks will carry the No. 1 seed into this week’s conference tournament because they defeated the Raiders in both of their meetings this season.
For Scotland (10-12, 5-5 SEC), the loss was its fourth in a row. A win would have placed the Scots in the top three of the conference standings and potentially secured them a spot in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs, but now Matt Justin’s squad will have to run the table in the SEC tournament if they want to keep their season alive.
Scotland received a bit of good news Sunday when it met with Lumberton, which also finished 5-5 in the SEC after beating Purnell Swett Friday, for a coin toss to determine which school would enter the tourney as a No. 4 seed. The Scots won the flip, allowing the school to host the fifth-seeded Pirates today at 7 p.m. in first-round action.
The winner of tonight’s matchup will travel to Raeford Thursday to take on Hoke in the semifinals.
In Saturday’s contest against the Raiders, the Scots stormed back after trailing 84-66 during the early stages of the fourth quarter. Fifteen fourth-quarter points from Niem Ratliffe and 11 from Daekwon Tyson helped Scotland close it to 98-96 with a little over two minutes left.
But, ironically, it was the Richmond defense that helped the Raiders put together the game-deciding spurt. Leading 100-98, Richmond scored 10 straight points thanks to steals on the defensive end followed by transition layups.
Scotland, which was plagued by the turnover bug in its first two games against Richmond this year, did a much better job of maneuvering through the Raiders’ press for much of Saturday’s matchup. However, the Raiders forced multiple Scotland breakdowns during the final minutes and capitalized on those critical mistakes.
“I thought we got some turnovers in the end that really helped us, we got some easy layups,” Laton said. “I thought they got worn down.”
Jaylan Terry led Richmond with 24 points while Leon Ziegler added 20 and Lavell Ellerbe tacked on 18.
Ratliffe finished with 21 points for Scotland, and Tyrese Baucum and Willie Douglas netted 16 apiece.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.