LAURINBURG — It’s been awhile since Scotland took the court for a Southeastern Conference tournament game.
In fact, the Scots, and the other schools in the SEC for that matter, haven’t participated in the annual end-of-season tourney the previous two years because it was cancelled due to winter weather. For the first time since 2013, Mother Nature finally relented Tuesday as Scotland and Lumberton met in the first round.
The Scots made the most of the opportunity, putting together a 31-3 run after trailing by 11 in the third quarter to keep its tournament run, and season, alive en route to a 66-54 victory on their home floor.
Scotland was down 39-28 with 2:25 left in the third period, but it ended the quarter on a 10-0 run to close within one entering the fourth. The teams found themselves locked at 41-all with 5:34 left in the game when Scotland went on another 12-0 spurt in a little over a minute to take a 53-41 advantage. The Scots then increased their lead to 59-42 to all but secure the stunning victory.
With the win, Scotland (11-12, 5-5 SEC) advances to the semifinals of the conference tournament while Lumberton (10-14, 5-5) sees its season come to an end in bitter fashion. The Scots will travel to Raeford Thursday to play the SEC’s No. 1 seed, Hoke.
“Our pressure got to Lumberton, I thought,” said Scotland head coach Matt Justin, referring to his team’s full-court pressure defense. “That was kind of what the difference was in the second half and it had them rattled.”
Before Scotland’s defense spurred the game-changing run, Lumberton controlled the contest for nearly three quarters. The Pirates had their way with the Scots a week ago, spoiling Scotland’s senior night with a 71-59 win, and it looked as if a similar result would occur Tuesday.
Despite missing two rotational guards in Josh Smith and Marcellus McLaughlin due to injury, Lumberton led 11-9 after the first quarter and ended the second period with a 15-2 flurry to go into the locker room leading 28-21 at halftime.
With a little over two minutes left in the third, Jamison Hill drilled a 3-pointer to extend the Pirates’ advantage to 39-28. But that’s when Scotland mounted its comeback — Willie Douglas scored nine points in the quarter, including a key 3-pointer with a minute left to close the gap to three, and Niem Ratliffe added five points to help the Scots get back in it.
In the fourth, Justin inserted two defensive-oriented players in Daekwon Tyson and Treshaun McIntyre to bulk up its pressure attack and the Scots grabbed control of the contest from there. The Pirates were rushed into multiple bad shots and they turned the ball over on critical possessions down the stretch.
“Daekwon and McIntyre are really aggressive and active,” Justin said. “They aren’t afraid to reach and if they get a foul I don’t think that bothers them one bit. They were really aggressive in the second half and Tre didn’t score, but he made several plays defensively and had several assists for us in that run. Daekwon’s been huge for almost a month now for us. He’s fun to watch.”
With the game tied at 41, Ratliffe stole the ball after a Lumberton timeout and converted a layup. Following an empty Pirates possession, Douglas was fouled and hit two shots from the free-throw line. After a steal on the inbounds pass, Ratliffe then hit a layup while drawing another foul, and he converted the shot at the charity stripe for the three-point play. A pair of scoreless Lumberton possessions resulted in another Ratliffe layup and 3-pointer, which concluded a 12-0 run over the course of 70 seconds.
“Great defensive effort on their part, we struggled,” said Lumberton coach Brandon Meadows. “”(Scotland’s) feistiness really got us.”
Ratliffe finished the game with a game-high 22 points, and Douglas added 19. Stephon Lloyd scored 15 to pace the Pirates.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13,