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Raiders’ Offense Struggles Early at Clayton; Fall to Comets 52-51 in Late-Game Theatrics

RO File Photo: Senior point guard Darrius Butler netted nine points in Wednesday's road loss to non-conference Clayton High School.
Photo courtesy of Kyle Pillar.

CLAYTON, N.C. – It was a tale of two halves Wednesday night as the Richmond Senior High School Raiders basketball team made the trip to Clayton High School in Johnston County for its second non-conference contest of the season.

Richmond, which was playing its second game in as many nights, fell late to the Comets in heartbreaking fashion 52-51.

One of head coach Donald Pettigrew’s philosophies is for his players to play a complete 32 minutes, and the Raiders did for all but the final few moments in Wednesday’s game.

The Raiders (1-2) maintained a 51-50 lead with under a second left on the game clock when Clayton (3-2) inbounded the ball to senior point guard MaCaleb Robertson. As time nearly expired, Robertson attempted a half-court shot that was contested by Richmond senior point guard Darrius Butler.

According to Pettigrew, Butler went to block the shot, and was successful in doing so, but was called for a foul, sending Robertson to the line with 0.01 seconds remaining. Robertson sank two of his three free throw attempts, locking up the win for the Comets.

“The refs called the foul on Darrius, but it looked like a clean block,” Pettigrew said. “But Darrius played really well tonight. He controlled the game, which is what I expect our point guard to do. It was tough losing that way.”

From the opening tip, the Raiders struggled to find their offensive rhythm, and only managed to score 15 points the entire first half. In the opening frame, Butler scored five of the team’s nine first-quarter points, and the Raiders only combined for six total points in the second quarter (three field goals from three different players).

But Pettigrew wasn’t totally discouraged, as he noted that Richmond’s defense kept them in the game by playing well early.

“Our defense played well early on,” Pettigrew said. “Our offense may have struggled, but the defense kept us in the game. Their big player (Devin Carter) was tough to handle.”

Trailing 25-15 entering the locker room at half, the Raiders needed a boost. And the much-needed offensive jolt of scoring came via junior forward Xavier Pettigrew, who tallied 18 points in the second half, 12 of which came in the final stanza.

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Pettigrew, who finished the night with a game-high 20 points, continued to impress in his first season with the Raiders (upon transfer from Temple Christian School). His 18 second-half points were a significant chunk of Richmond’s much more offensively productive half, as they outscored the Comets 36-22.

Adding to the Raiders scoring total was Butler, who finished the night with nine points. Senior starting forward Malik Flowers tacked on six points of his own, while senior guard Da’Shaun Wallace and junior guard Malik Stanback also added six points each off the bench.

Stanback, who has proven his worth from beyond the three-point arc through the season’s first three games, drilled home the Raiders’ only two shots from downtown. His three-pointer in the fourth quarter helped give Richmond a late-game lead.

Despite the loss, Pettigrew is encouraged that his team will continue to grow as the season progresses, and is looking at all of his players to contribute. One of the players that stepped up Wednesday was junior guard Bobby Terry, who finished the night with four points, but added intensity on defense.

“The second half was different because the guys came out ready to play,” Pettigrew said of his team’s second-half performance. “Bobby is our (defensive) sparkplug. He only scored four points, but played tough on defense all night.”

Through three games this season, it is apparent that the Raiders aren’t the No. 1 scoring team in the country like last year’s team. But part of that is because of Pettigrew’s shift in focus to playing defensively-sound basketball, which is okay to him because it’s something he believes his team will get better at as the year continues.

Leading scorers for the Comets were Robertson (12 points), senior forward Donolly Tyrell (10 points) and junior forward Trevor Van Dyke (9 points).

The Raiders will wrap up their three-game week at home Friday, as they’ll host Sandhills Athletic Conference foe Pinecrest High School.  

“There are no off days around here,” Pettigrew said when asked what he’s planning to do to prepare for the Patriots. “It’s a big game for us, as they’re a tough team with a great coach. We’ll practice (Thursday) and be ready to play hard Friday.”

Tipoff against Pinecrest (6-1) is set for 7:30 p.m. following the completion of the Lady Raiders’ game.

 

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Kyle Pillar is a 16-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on Twitter @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.