ROCKINGHAM — Senior point guard Dakota Chavis hit his biggest three-pointer of the season with 1:43 left in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s second round 4A East playoff game.
The contested shot in front of the Richmond Raiders bench proved to be the eventual game-winning basket to help the team advance to the third round.
In a game that proved to be heavy on defense from both squads, the No. 2 Raiders erased a halftime deficit to defeat No. 15 Sanderson High School.
Outscoring the Spartans by a dozen points in the second half, Richmond survived an early scare with a 74-64 victory.
Chavis finished with five points, but none were more imperative than the fourth-quarter three-pointer.
Putting together another strong performance was junior wing Jullien Cole, who finished with a team-high 30 points. Splashing down eight triples, he now has 18 three-pointers and 68 points through Richmond’s two playoff wins.
Cole added five boards and junior wing Paul McNeil Jr. recorded 20 points and seven boards. Held to just eight points in the first half, McNeil Jr. added five in the third and his final eight points in the fourth period.
Finishing with a game-high 31 points was Nathan Fife, who in part with Tommy Lyon’s 16 points, gave the Spartans an early advantage.
After drives from McNeil Jr. and Cole gave Richmond an 4-3 lead 90 seconds into the game, Sanderson (19-8) jumped out to an 11-4 lead.
Answering was Cole, who hit a floater and a three-pointer to start a 7-0 run by Richmond. Adding the first of his four points in the win, freshman Jayden Hamilton stopped in transition and used a shot fake to lay in two easy points.
Richmond’s final two points of the first came on a pair of McNeil Jr. free throws, but the Spartans entered the second quarter up 17-13. Fife connected on a triple with 25 seconds left to open the lead.
The Raiders, who shot 10-of-35 from the field in the first half, found themselves down by as many as nine points in the second quarter. A 10-5 stretch by Sanderson led to a 27-18 deficit.
Adding those five points for Richmond were Chavis (drive), McNeil Jr. (free throw) and Cole (putback).
In the closing 3:24 seconds of the half, Richmond closed the gap to two points at the break. McNeil Jr. drained one of his two triples in the game from the left corner and Cole finished the half with a pair of shots from downtown.
Head coach Donald Pettigrew said following the game that he didn’t call any timeouts during the early scoring troubles because he wanted the players to work out the problems themselves.
Ahead of the game, Pettigrew also expected the Spartans to try and slow down the tempo of the game. Out of the break, trailing 29-27, the Raiders picked up the game’s energy to shift the momentum for good.
In the second half, Richmond shot 15-of-27 from the field, ending the game 25-of-62 as a team.
After a Spartans jumper by Gordie Balas to open the third, Cole gave Richmond a 33-31 lead when he knocked down two three-balls on consecutive possessions.
Cole regained the lead just under two minutes later with his third of five second-half three-pointers. That started a 10-4 run by Richmond over the next three minutes.
A Hamilton jumper in the paint, followed by an old-fashioned three-point play by McNeil Jr. put Richmond up four points. Junior Javian Drake, who scored all 10 of his points in the second half, started with a free throw.
The Raiders used a technical foul on Sanderson coach Roy Roberson to send McNeil Jr. to the line, who hit both shots to cap the scoring run.
With 18 seconds left in the third, and the Spartans down just three points, Drake kissed a shot off the glass to make it a 46-41 lead.
Five different Raiders found the basket in the pivotal fourth quarter, led by McNeil Jr. (8 points) and Drake (7 points).
Cole started the scoring for Richmond with a three-pointer, the first of his six points in the final eight minutes.
Drake tied the game at 51 points with a drive and junior shooting guard Jamarion Wall, who had all five of his points in the fourth, splashed home a three-pointer from the top of the arc to regain a three-point lead.
An 11-6 run by Richmond over the next three minutes saw five points from Drake and a McNeil Jr. triple. The stretch culminated in Chavis’ three-pointer, making it a 65-59 lead.
In the final 1:20, McNeil Jr. hit three free throws and a bucket, Cole notched his final three-pointer and Wall chipped in a pair of foul shots on a 1-and-1 opportunity with 12.1 seconds left to ice the win.
Although he didn’t find the basket, senior Zion Baldwin proved big on defense, collecting a team-high 12 rebounds.
Continuing their postseason march on Saturday, the No. 2 Raiders (25-2) will host former Sandhills Athletic Conference foe No. 7 Lumberton High School (24-5).
In the second round, the Pirates defeated No. 10 New Bern High School 67-52 to set up their meeting with the Raiders. The game will start at 6:30 p.m.
The Richmond Observer will also publish a photo gallery of Thursday’s win shortly.
Editor’s Note: This story has been edited to correct spelling. 11:11 p.m. 2-23-23