Home Local Sports No. 1 Raiders roll past No. 4 Hoke County, advance to SAC...

No. 1 Raiders roll past No. 4 Hoke County, advance to SAC title game

Paul McNeil Jr., Zion Baldwin and Javian Drake apply pressure on defense during Wednesday's win. (Kyle Pillar, sports editor)

ROCKINGHAM — In the two previous meetings this season, the Raider basketball team defeated Hoke County by an average of 31 points. 

Wednesday’s semifinal game of the Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament followed the same script, as No. 1 Richmond defeated the No. 4 Bucks 79-50.

In what was the team’s 15th straight win, it was also the 100th career victory for sixth-year head coach Donald Pettigrew.

The Raiders punched their ticket to their second consecutive SAC championship game thanks to 10 players finding the basket.

Junior Jullien Cole dropped a team-high 20 points and was tied with senior teammate Zion Baldwin for the team lead with six rebounds, who added 9 points.

Paul McNeil Jr. scored 11 points to go with his three rebounds and three steals. Other top scorers were Jayden Hamilton and Jamarion Wall with 8 points each, Javian Drake had 7 points and Dakota Chavis chipped in 5 points.

A pair of triples from McNeil Jr. and Cole, followed by a McNeil Jr. free throw, made it an early 7-3 lead midway through a slow first quarter for both teams. But the first two points from Baldwin on a putback ignited an 11-0 run the rest of the period.

McNeil Jr. added his final five of his nine first-quarter points during the run, with Drake and Baldwin each contributing two more points.

Jullien Cole lays in two of his team-high 20 points in Richmond’s win. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

Up 18-5 to start the second, Wall and Hamilton kept the stretch going with two quick baskets. A pair of Chavis free throws and another Hamilton transition bucket made it a 26-5 lead.

Salah Sutton, who led all scorers with 23 points, ended Hoke County’s scoring drought at the 6:14 mark with two free throws. But a 15-10 battle in favor of Richmond the rest of the half saw the Raiders’ lead grow to as many as 24 points.


Cole recorded nine of those 15 points, scoring a putback, a three-pointer, a close-range shot and a breakaway jam on a steal. Two more points apiece from Chavis and Baldwin added to the lead, and Hamilton hit a bucket just before the buzzer to make it a 41-17 advantage.

Six Raiders found the cylinder in the third period, using a strong defense to create turnovers and easy transition points. Cole and Wall paved the way with five points each, both hitting a three-pointer in the process.

Baldwin capped his scoring with a shot under the hoop and a free throw, as Chavis, Hamilton and McNeil Jr. each added a field goal. Richmond’s largest lead of the third was 33 points.

Cole and Drake traded three-pointers to start the fourth, with junior Dylan Lampley adding a floater for his two points. Drake knocked in a pair of shots from the line for his final points.

Following a Wall free throw with 4:05 to play, Pettigrew subbed his starters. Junior David McNair netted six of Richmond’s final eight points, connecting on a triple and a trio of free throws.

Sophomore Davion Ingram, one of three junior varsity players to get called up, scored his first career varsity points off the glass with 1:03 to play.

Jayden Hamilton, who scored eight points, guards Salah Sutton (2). (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

Richmond shot 29-of-54 from the field (53.7%) and added nine three-pointers to help end Hoke County’s (11-15, 8-6 SAC) season.

The No. 1 Raiders (22-2, 13-0 SAC) will host the SAC tournament championship game and look to win it for the second year in a row on Friday. Richmond will welcome in No. 2 Scotland (19-7, 10-4 SAC), starting at 6 p.m.

Note: A special feature article detailing Pettigrew’s 100th career win will be published shortly.

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Kyle Pillar is a 22-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on X @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.