Home Local Sports Raiders maintain Jason Norton Classic trophy with big win over Pine Forest

Raiders maintain Jason Norton Classic trophy with big win over Pine Forest

The Raiders pose with Jase Norton (with trophy) Lauren Norton (second from right) and Ryan Norton-Smith (right) following Monday's win over Pine Forest. (Kyle Pillar, sports editor)

FAYETTEVILLE — For the third straight time in the Jason Norton Classic, the Richmond Raider basketball team walked off the court as victors.

Kicking off their final week of regular-season play, the Raiders traveled to Pine Forest High School and defeated the non-conference Trojans 85-55.

Not as thrilling as last year’s buzzer-beater or playoff wins, Richmond moved its winning streak to 13 straight games with its 11th victory of 30+ points this season.

Norton, a Richmond County native who served as a longtime educator and coach at Richmond and the athletic director at Pine Forest, passed away in 2020 from cancer. 

Since then, the Raiders and Trojans have played an annual game in his memory.

Nine Raiders scored in the win, led by a game-high 27 points from junior wing Paul McNeil Jr., who added 8 rebounds. 

Paul McNeil Jr. (2) blocks a shot attempt by Mekhi Johnson during the second half. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

Juniors Jullien Cole (16 points) and Javian Drake (14 points) also reached double figures, and combined with McNeil, netted 10 of Richmond’s 13 three-pointers. 

Senior Zion Baldwin nearly had a double-double with 8 points and 10 boards.

An aggressive Trojans offensive fueled a 20-16 lead for the home team after the first quarter. Pine Forest (13-9) used an 11-0 run in the middle of the quarter to take the lead. 

McNeil Jr. recorded half of Richmond’s points on two field goals, a free throw and a three-pointer. Cole added his first five points on a triple and a bucket, while junior Jamarion Wall rattled in a three-ball from the right corner for his only points in the game.

Settling into a rhythm in the second stanza, the Raiders broke the game open by outscoring the Trojans 28-10. McNeil Jr. led the way again, this time scoring a transition layup and a trio of shots from downtown to give him 19 points at the break.

Part of a 19-4 scoring stretch through the first 5:05 of the second, Baldwin registered four points on buckets on back-to-back possessions. Chavis joined the scoring with a baseline drive and added a pair of free throws.

Zion Baldwin (4) pulls down one of his 8 rebounds in Monday’s win. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

Following a jumper from Xayden Watson that cut Pine Forest’s deficit to 35-26, Drake started his seven-point second quarter with a triple from the right wing. He added a pair of shots in the paint and a tip by Baldwin at the rim gave Richmond a 44-30 lead.


Putting 19 more points on the board in the third, Richmond jumped ahead by as many as 25 points two different times. Cole sandwiched a shot in the paint with a pair of three-pointers to pace the Raiders with 8 points.

Drake added to the lead with five more points (three-pointer, field goal) and McNeil Jr. connected for four more points. Chavis rounded out the scoring effort in the third with a shot from under the hoop.

With the game in Richmond’s control, head coach Donald Pettigrew used a mixture of his starters and bench players in the fourth quarter. McNeil Jr. added his final four points and Cole splashed down another three-pointer.

Baldwin and Drake each netted a field goal and Chavis added two more points from the line to give him 7 points to go with his six assists. McNeil Jr. led the team with 7 dishes in the win.

Javian Drake (3) pulls up for a jumper in the paint for two points. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

In the final three minutes, junior wing Dylan Lampley made quick work with his five points, scoring on a putback before hitting a three-pointer.

Fellow junior Toby McInnis showed off his range from beyond the arc, draining the team’s final three-pointer of the game. The final basket for Richmond came courtesy of junior David McNair on a transition layup.

Notching at least their 20th win in three of their last four seasons (including the pandemic-shortened 2021 season), the Raiders (20-2, 11-0 SAC) will end the regular season on Friday.

With the Sandhills Athletic Conference title already won, Richmond will travel to second-place Scotland High School (17-5, 8-2 SAC) and begin play at 7:30 p.m.