ROCKINGHAM — There’s something magical about the Richmond Raider basketball team when it plays teams that are either leading or tied for first in the Sandhills Athletic Conference this season.
Richmond welcomed in the SAC-leading Pinecrest High School Patriots Tuesday, and used three double-digit scorers to hand the visiting team a 72-46 loss.
With the win, the Raiders (10-9, 5-4 SAC) made two statements: first, it was the team’s largest margin of victory over the Patriots since at least 2000 (previously 12 points in 2014-15), and second, it was the third time this season that Richmond defeated a team that was either in first place or held a share of first place in the conference standings.
The other two teams were Lumberton and Seventy-First high schools. Tuesday also marked the Raiders’ fifth-straight SAC win after beginning the season with an 0-4 record.
“We’re just playing really good basketball right now,” head coach Donald Pettigrew smiled in the locker room after the win. “I’ve always said we can play with anybody — now the guys are starting to put it together. How we’re looking now is how we played over the summer.
“This isn’t a surprise to us,” he added of the win. “People may call it an upset, or a big win when we needed it, but we knew we could win this game going into it.”
Sophomore Nygie Stroman, who scored a career-high 27 points Friday against Purnell Swett, started the game on a 7-0 run by himself. Three-pointers from senior Rod Newton and freshman Kellan Hood, the first of three for both players, opened the game up to 14-3.
Junior Jarvis Tillman ended the opening quarter with a monster breakaway two-handed jam, giving the Raiders their biggest lead to that point in the game, 16 points, 21-5.
Entering the game in the second quarter off the bench for Richmond was senior forward Xavier Pettigrew. He was clutch from the free throw line, going 4-for-4 on one-and-one opportunities, while also adding a field goal and an additional free throw.
His seven second-quarter points were half of Richmond’s 14 points in the frame, and the first of his game-high 15 points. Also coming up big for the Raiders in the latter part of the first half was sophomore PJ McLaughlin, who connected on five of his six free throw chances.
The Patriots (15-4, 6-3 SAC) outscored Richmond 18-14 in the second quarter, but still trailed 35-25 at the break.
Richmond kept its foot on the pedal in the second half, as Newton and Hood splashed down two more triples apiece in the third quarter. With 25 seconds left in the frame, Hood hit his final three-pointer of the night, giving the Raiders a comfortable 53-33 lead going into the fourth.
The Raiders added 19 more points in the final frame, seeing back-to-back three-pointers from Stroman and sophomore Caleb Hood extend the lead to 30 points.
Richmond’s largest lead of the night, 32 points, came when Newton drained a pair of free throws with 2:45 left. They would serve as the final points for the home team.
Adding onto Xavier Pettigrew’s 15 points were 14 more from Stroman, and Newton rounded out the double-digit scorers for Richmond with 11 points. Kellan Hood finished with nine points, Caleb Hood and Tillman each had eight points, and McLaughlin ended with seven points.
Pinecrest’s leading scorer was Bradlee Haskell, who scored 10 points. Clayton Coe and Dillon Drennan each added nine points in the loss.
“Nygie got us started and he’s going to be something special,” Pettigrew said of Stroman. “I think he’ll be one of the top sophomores (in the conference) at the end of the season.
“I told the guys every game is a playoff game from here on out,” he added. “We’re just taking it one game at a time. It was a team effort tonight. Defense will continue to be our bread and butter, and we made good adjustments tonight. I hope the team continues to get better.”
Richmond will look to keep its SAC winning streak alive, as it will head to Jack Britt High School (11-7, 5-3 SAC) Friday. Tip is set for 7:30 p.m.