RAEFORD — Parity reigned supreme during the Southeastern Conference boys basketball regular season, but this week’s conference tournament has been all chalk heading into today’s championship game.
No. 3 Pinecrest cruised to victory over No. 6 Purnell Swett and No. 4 Scotland rallied to defeat No. 5 Lumberton on Tuesday. On Thursday the SEC regular season co-champions, Hoke and Richmond Senior, advanced to the title tilt, albiet in different ways.
The No. 1-seeded Bucks trailed after the first quarter against the visiting Scots, but they quickly snatched the lead during the early stages of the second quarter and never looked back en route to a 81-59 victory in the semifinals of the SEC tournament. Four players cracked double-digit scoring for Hoke as Scotland provided little resistance on the defensive end of the floor for much of the night.
Thursday’s meeting between Scotland and Hoke was the third time the two conference foes have met on the hardwood this year — the Scots beat the Bucks 67-56 a month ago, but Hoke avenged that defeat with a 73-66 win during the first week of February. In the rubber match, the outcome was never in doubt.
“I think we’re gelling as a team, I think after that Scotland loss we learned a lot about ourselves and stuff that we can do better,” said Hoke head coach Quame Patterson after the win. “I think we’re getting better and better. Our conference is so good this year and it’s prepared us well.”
On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 Richmond rallied from a fourth-quarter deficit to stun Pinecrest 91-88 in Rockingham. The Bucks and Raiders will clash today in Raeford for the SEC tournament title.
Scotland (11-13, 5-5 SEC) had its most success against Hoke during the first quarter, hitting four 3-pointers, including two from Justin McRae, that helped the visitors build a 18-15 lead heading into the second period.
“We know that is what Scotland can do — they can score,” Patterson said. “With their 3-ball, they can score in bunches.”
Despite its opponent catching fire from the outside, Hoke (18-6, 7-3 SEC) withstood the early onslaught and remained within striking distance. The Bucks opened the second period on a 16-2 run which was helped by Scotland miscues on inbounds passes. When the spurt grew to 14-2, Justin called a timeout to try to stymie Hoke’s momentum, but the Scots were called for a five-second violation before they could get the ball inbounds. The Bucks scored on the following offensive possession to increase their lead to 31-20, and they never let the Scots get closer than six the rest of the way.
“It was tough out there tonight,” Scotland coach Matt Justin said after his team’s disappointing loss. “As the game wore on, it seemed like we struggled more to guard the ball.”
Hoke led 36-30 at the break, and 13 of Scotland’s points came from McRae. The Bucks held the sophomore to only three points in the second half and, as a result, steadily increased their advantage. Niem Ratliffe was the only other Scot to reach double digits with 10 points.
Down 10 after the third quarter, Scotland closed it to 60-52 before the Bucks put together a 15-2 run to all but ice the contest.
A trio of Bucks led the squad with 13 points — Daishawn George, Rovel Ray and Silas Love. Devin Norwood added 10.
McRae paced all scorers with 16 points for the Scots, who will likely miss the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs when the field is announced this weekend.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.