SANFORD — Paul McNeil Jr. smiled big as he said “it’s been a ride” the last two and a half seasons with the Richmond Senior High School basketball team.
The junior shooting guard surpassed 1,000 career points on Tuesday in part of the Raiders’ 98-53 win over Southern Lee High School.
Suiting up for the Raiders in his 44th career game, McNeil Jr. notched a game-high 32 points and added 11 rebounds. He scored career points 1,000 and 1,001 on a transition bucket early in the third quarter.
To reach the milestone, McNeil Jr. has averaged 22.7 points per game. His 32 points against the Cavaliers marked his 11th career 30+ point game and was a season-high.
In the win, McNeil Jr. shot 13-of-18 from the field (72%), went 2-of-7 from three-point land and was 4-for-5 from the line.
Beginning their quest for a hopeful Sandhills Athletic Conference title on Tuesday, the Raiders notched their sixth straight win with the help of nine total players scoring.
Richmond’s 98 points were a single-game season high and the third time the team scored over 90 points this winter. The Raiders also recorded another running-clock victory, jumping ahead by 40 points with 6:15 left in regulation.
Adding double figures were senior Zion Baldwin (12 points, 8 rebounds), junior Dylan Lampley (12 points) and junior Jullien Cole (11 points).
Setting the tone from the opening tip, the Raiders jumped out to a 32-8 lead through the first eight minutes. Cole and Baldwin each had eight points, followed by McNeil’s seven points.
Junior guard Javian Drake, who finished with eight points, netted four points early. Freshman Jayden Hamilton drained a three-pointer to extend the lead and finished with six points. Lampley got his night started with a bucket.
Five quick points on a Lampley drive and a Cole three-pointer to open the second gave Richmond a 26-point lead, its largest of the first half.
Answering were the Cavaliers (5-3, 0-1 SAC) with a 9-5 run. Scoring for Richmond were Hamilton, Lampley and McNeil.
Following a timeout, Richmond closed the opening half by outscoring Southern Lee 12-4. McNeil Jr., who had 11 points in the second quarter, notched three more field goals and a trio of free throws.
Junior guard David McNair, who added nine points, also scored three free throws from the line with a second left. At the break, Richmond led 54-30.
McNeil Jr. scored the first 10 points for the Raiders in the third quarter, including his milestone transition layup with 5:40 left to put Richmond ahead 62-34. His final bucket of the stretch was a putback jam.
Helping add to the lead were two triples from Lampley, four points each from Baldwin and Drake and McNeil Jr. splashed down a three-pointer at the buzzer to make it an 82-47 lead after three complete quarters.
A 5-0 spree to start the fourth used a McNair three-pointer and a Hamilton drive to start the running clock.
In the closing minutes, McNair hit another triple and junior Jamarion Wall scored five points. Senior Dakota Chavis completed an old-fashioned three-point play to round out the scoring.
The leading scorer for Southern Lee was Isaiah Upchurch, who finished with 18 points.
The Raiders (7-1, 1-0 SAC) will prepare for a long road trip to Knoxville, Tenn., later this week to play in the 5 Star Prep Hoops Jam.
Richmond is set to play Knoxville Catholic High School (8-1) on Friday, followed by Lebanon High School (6-3) on Saturday.