Home Local Sports CONFERENCE CHAMPS: Raiders clinch top spot in standings on senior night

CONFERENCE CHAMPS: Raiders clinch top spot in standings on senior night

The 2022-23 Sandhills Athletic Conference champion Richmond Raider basketball team. (Kyle Pillar, sports editor)

ROCKINGHAM — A special night for the two senior players on the Richmond Raider basketball team was accompanied by an outright conference title on Friday.

Playing in their final regular-season home game, the Raiders trounced visiting Lee County High School 86-34 behind a running clock to bring home the Sandhills Athletic Conference championship.

After splitting the crown with Pinecrest High School last season, and twice in 2014-15 (Hoke County) and 2015-16 (Scotland), Richmond recorded its first outright conference title since 2003-04.

Seniors Zion Baldwin and Dakota Chavis, both multi-year starters for the Raiders, were recognized for their contributions to the program on senior night.

Checking that box on their season to-do list, the Raiders extended their season-long winning streak to 12 games.

Nine total Raiders found the basket, five of whom reached double figures. Junior wing Paul McNeil Jr. and freshman Jayden Hamilton both led the team with 16 points, which saw Hamilton tie his career high.

Freshman Jayden Hamilton (10) lays in two of his 16 points during Friday’s win over Lee County. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

Chavis impressed on senior night with 13 points, matching his season-high, and junior wing Jullien Cole registered a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Richmond’s fifth double-digit scorer was junior Javian Drake with 10 points.

The energy was amped up in Richmond’s favor off the opening tip, as Baldwin scored the first of his five points on a breakaway jam. That dunk started a 30-0 run by the Raiders that stretched until the 5:00 mark of the second quarter.

McNeil Jr., who returned to play for the first time since Jan. 24, scored the first of his eight first-quarter points on a pair of free throws. That was followed by triples from Hamilton and Cole and Chavis got on the board with a transition layup.

Leading 12-0, McNeil Jr. drained a pair of three-balls and Hamilton connected on another three-pointer to make it 21-0 at the end of the first.

Netting the first nine points of the second, Richmond used five points from junior Jamarion Wall on a deep two and a triple. A McNeil Jr. putback and a Drake bucket in transition extended the lead to 30-0.

Lee County (7-13, 1-9 SAC) finally got on the board when Tyler Phillips scored two free throws with 5:00 left in the half.

Senior Zion Baldwin dunks the ball for Richmond’s first points the game. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

In the closing minutes, Richmond rolled on a 19-12 run to take a 49-14 lead into the break. McNeil Jr., who added six rebounds, scored the next six points for Richmond on two close-range shots and a baseline jam.

Junior David McNair netted one of the Raiders’ 14 three-pointers in the win for the first of his eight points. Adding to the lead were buckets from beyond the arc from Baldwin and Chavis.

Hamilton and Chavis each scored two more points in the final minute of the half.

Scoring four of Richmond’s first seven points to start the third was Cole, hitting a shot under the basket before elevating for a dunk to start the running clock with 6:34 to go. Hamilton scored the third of his four three-pointers between Cole’s baskets.

Rounding out the scoring in the third was Chavis’ final six points on a three, field goal and free throw. Hamilton added five points and Cole notched a field goal and two shots from the line.

Senior Dakota Chavis (5) splits defenders for a drive and two of his 13 points. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

With the clock winding, and Richmond ahead 71-29 to start the fourth, Drake cashed in on his final eight points. He made two three-pointers and a layup.

McNair scored six points to cap his scoring and junior Toby McInnis powered through the paint for a layup.

Leading the Yellow Jackets in scoring was Jayden Hill with 11 points, while Phillips and Malachi McLean both had 6 points.

Richmond (19-2, 11-0 SAC) has two more regular-season games next week, starting with a non-conference game at Pine Forest High School on Monday.

That will be followed by the Raiders’ final SAC game at Scotland High School next Friday. Both games will start at 7:30 p.m.

Note: A separate article will be published with senior night photos from the Richmond boys’ and girls’ basketball games.

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Kyle Pillar is a 16-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on Twitter @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.