ROCKINGHAM – It took until the second game of the season, but the Richmond Senior High School Raiders basketball team earned its first win of the 2017-18 campaign Tuesday night in its home opener.
It was also head coach Donald Pettigrew’s first win at the helm of the program.
The Raiders opened Sandhills Athletic Conference play by hosting Purnell Swett High School and beat them comfortably by a final score of 77-65. Richmond handed the Rams their first loss of the season in front of a sizable crowd.
Holding true to his philosophy of implementing a stronger defense than former Richmond teams, Pettigrew’s crew kept the Rams in check for a majority of the game.
“Defensively, tonight worked out a whole lot better,” Pettigrew said. “We slowed down (the game) and we slowed down our offense, too.”
Both teams got off to a slow start, with Richmond junior guard Malik Stanback dropping the game’s first bucket 1:20 into the first quarter. For a majority of the first quarter, the Raiders (1-1, 1-0 SAC) failed to find their tempo, and trailed Purnell Swett (2-1, 0-1 SAC) 14-7 with 3:00 left in the quarter.
Following a traveling turnover by Purnell Swett senior guard Kevin Hardin, Richmond junior forward Jada Edwards grabbed an offensive rebound and knotted the game at 14.
With the leadership of starting junior forward Xavier Pettigrew, coupled with help from junior guard Alex Quick and senior guard Da’Shaun Wallace off the bench, Richmond ended the quarter on a 11-1 run to lead 18-15 at the end of the first frame.
Pettigrew, who is nursing a groin injury, finished the night with a Richmond team-high 17 points, and added four blocks and went 3-for-6 from the free throw line. Also having a big night for the Raiders were Stanback (15 points, two three-pointers) and Wallace (14 points, seven of which came in the fourth quarter).
Richmond junior forward Xavier Pettigrew attempts a free throw in Tuesday’s win. He led all Richmond scorers with 17 points.
After making necessary adjustments, the second quarter was Richmond’s best defensive set of the night, as they outscored the Rams 15-6. Senior forward Malik Flowers got things going for the Raiders with a two-handed jam following a loose ball, and the entire Richmond team picked apart the Rams’ full court pressure.
Purnell Swett didn’t net its first basket in the second quarter until there was 2:54 remaining, when junior point guard Kyler Page hit a layup. Page finished the night with a game-high 30 points.
The Rams also found themselves in foul trouble early, sending the Raiders to the charity stripe often. Richmond finished the night 16-of-31 from the line, but seven of its 12 attempts in the second quarter.
Starting to pull away on the scoreboard in the second quarter thanks to suffocating defense and forcing turnovers, the Raiders entered the half up 33-21 thanks to a 10-foot jumper from starting senior point guard Darrius Butler (nine points), and a circus shot from Wallace as time expired.
“Darrius played a lot better (tonight) than he did against Fairmont,” Pettigrew noted. “It was good to see our point guard play better. Bobby Terry gave us a big spark off the bench. And I told Da’Shawn to slow down his play and let the game come to him.”
Out of the break, Richmond kept its foot on the gas pedal, and opened up the third quarter on a 7-2 run, which saw Flowers slam home another monster jam. Leading 45-36 at the 4:36 mark, Stanback hit the first of his two step-back three pointers of the quarter to start to put the game out of reach. Stanback, who Pettigrew noted as possibly the team’s best shooter, led all scorers with 11 points in the third quarter.
In a game riddled by fouls from both teams (23 for Purnell Swett, 17 for Richmond), the Raiders entered the fourth quarter up 57-41. Following a Butler coast-to-coast layup following a Rams turnover, the Raiders gained their second 20-point, and largest, lead of the night, going up 68-48 with 5:15 remaining.
Down the final stretch, Wallace led the way, draining seven of his 14 points in the final frame. With the seconds dwindling off the game clock, Wallace forged through a wall of Rams defenders in the paint and hit a right-handed layup while being fouled, and hit the free throw to end the Raiders’ scoring.
In comparing Tuesday’s winning performance with the team’s season opening loss to Fairmont High School last Wednesday, Pettigrew said that his team still needs to work on being able to play consistently from the opening tipoff to the final buzzer.
“We still aren’t playing a complete 32-minute game,” Pettigrew said. “We’ve got a long way to go. I just have to work on keeping the guys focused the entire game. We know what we want our end result to be.”
Richmond did turn the ball over 18 times Tuesday, and didn’t have a stellar night at the free throw line, two facets of the game Pettigrew noted that needed to get better.
Other scoring stats from Tuesday’s win for Richmond include six points each from Flowers and Quick, five points from senior shooting guard Carl McNeal, four points from senior guard Kaleb Douglas, and junior guard Roderick Newton had one point.
For the Rams, aside from Page, only junior point guard Darriante Parker reached double digits, as he netted 15 points. Senior center Kalan Locklear added eight points of his own.
The Raiders continue their busy week, as they’ll hit the road Wednesday to play their second of three games in four days. Richmond is set to face nonconference opponent Clayton High School in Johnston County Wednesday. Tipoff against the Comets (2-2) is set for 7:30 p.m.