The basketball lady Scots nearly let their chance of redemption slip away in the final minutes of the fourth quarter against Pinecrest Tuesday night.
After suffering their only conference loss of the season against the lady Patriots on Jan. 24, Scotland allowed Pinecrest to pull within two points with just 35 seconds left to play. But after swiping an in-bounds pass from Pinecrest, Scotland point guard Ariel Ratcliff fought her way to the free-throw line with 10 seconds left on the clock.
Though her team had a dismal 5-17 performance from the line in the fourth quarter, Ratcliff managed to sink both attempts and effectively shut the door on any attempted Pinecrest comeback.
With that, the lady Scots pulled out the 49-44 victory over Pinecrest. And not only did they avenge that earlier loss, the lady Scots placed themselves in prime conference position with just four games remaining on their regular season schedule.
“Our free throw shooting has been a weakness of ours all season, and it’s something we’ll have to address as it gets closer to playoff time,” said Scotland coach David Johnson, whose team successfully navigated a two-day conference gauntlet with crucial wins over Lumberton and Pinecrest. “But it feels to get these wins, and I’ll be giving this team a rest on Wednesday because they earned it.”
When Scotland fell to Pinecrest Jan. 24, it was due largely in part to the play of lady Patriots’ 6’3” center Janea Williams, who scored 32 of her team’s 57 points as Pinecrest exploited the mismatches that their lengthy front court presented.
But when the final buzzer sounded Tuesday night, Williams had finished with just nine points on 3-14 shooting, including just two points in the second half of regulation.
“Our uptempo defense made her a ball handler and took her out of her game,” Johnson said. “Plus we managed to score enough points to keep her uncomfortable and force her to rely on her guards to make things happen.”
Scotland got off to an atypically slow start in the first quarter, failing to score a basket for the first three minutes of the quarter. Yet the lady Scots’ defense was stout right from the start, holding Pinecrest to just 3-14 from the field and allowing Scotland to keep pace despite scoring just nine points in the quarter. The first quarter ended with the lady Scots down 13-9.
The lady Scots bounced back offensively in the second quarter, which resulted in a back-and-forth affair that saw five lead changes. Even more impressive was Scotland’s ability to put up points with sophomore Destiny Campbell largely absent from the lineup due to foul trouble. After a string of dominant games, Campbell was a virtual non-factor against Pinecrest and managed just one point on the night. The half ended with Scotland up 28-24 over the lady Patriots.
Midway through a third quarter defined by grit and hard-nosed defense, Scotland opened up their largest lead of the game after a three-pointer from senior guard Tykeria Johnson was followed by a layup in transition courtesy of Quintavia Deberry (who led all scorers on the night with 12 points). The lady Scots maintained an eight-point cushion over Pinecrest heading into the fourth quarter.
Much like that Jan. 24 loss, Scotland watched a fourth-quarter lead dissipate as the lady Patriots maintained their poise and scored back-to-back baskets inside the final minute (from Williams and guard Dessence Waddell). But this time, the lady Scots stayed the course and earned their second hard-fought victory in as many nights.
Ratcliff had 10 points, six assists and six steals on the night, while Deberry added six boards and five steals of her own to her game-high points total.
Scotland will next host Hoke County on Friday night, with game time set for 6 p.m.