ROCKINGHAM — Raider Magic was on full display inside Richmond Senior High School’s gymnasium on Tuesday.
Checking the first of a potential dozen boxes off against Sandhills Athletic Conference opponents, the Richmond Raiders won their home and conference opener.
After spending the first three weeks of the season on the road, the reigning 4A state runner-ups wowed their home crowd for the first time this winter.
Behind a 49-point effort from senior Paul McNeil Jr., Richmond took care of Pinecrest High School in 106-81 fashion.
Eclipsing the century mark in points, it was the first time the Raiders scored over 100 points since defeating Chambers High School 126-118 on Feb. 21, 2017. That season, Richmond led the nation in scoring with 100.9 points per game.
The night’s magical moment came in the game’s final seconds from sophomore shooting guard Jacob Rankin, who swished a three-pointer from the right corner in front of the Raiders’ bench.
Following the shot, Rankin was swarmed by his teammates and members of the crowd as the final buzzer sounded.
McNeil Jr., who dropped a career-high 50 points two games ago, shot 22-of-32 from the field (69%), including four three-pointers. He added two assists.
Fellow senior Javian Drake added 22 points on 9-of-22 shooting, his second straight game with over 20 points. He dished out three assists in the win.
Seniors Jamarion Wall and Braylon Barfield, along with junior Ahaiver McDonald, each netted 8 points. Junior Keyonta Davis and sophomore Jayden Hamilton both contributed 4 points.
Pinecrest (2-2) held an early lead in the first quarter by as many as four points. A dunk from McNeil Jr., two of his 15 points in the opening stanza, tied the game 10-10.
Davis tied the game again 12-12 with a putback on a rebound. That started a 13-0 run that put the Raiders ahead for good. McNeil Jr. had 11 points during the stretch and Drake added a transition bucket.
The Patriots called a timeout trailing 25-12. Baskets from McNeil Jr. and Davis opened the lead to 27-17 after one period.
A pair of triples from McNeil Jr., who is averaging 36.6 points per game this season, began the second quarter. Drake had the next four points for Richmond on a bucket and two free throws and another McNeil Jr. jam made it 39-28.
Two Barfield free throws, a McNeil Jr. jumper and three points from Wall closed the 20-point quarter to give Richmond a 47-34 lead at the break.
Richmond’s offense exploded for 33 points in the third quarter, but Pinecrest kept pace and scored 24 points. Barfield started the Raiders’ scoring with a drive and tip in at the rim.
McDonald scored all eight of his points in the third, while Drake made three-close range shots in the final two minutes for six more points. McNeil Jr. led the way with 11 points on five field goals and a free throw.
Hamilton and Wall both notched two points to enter the fourth quarter with an 80-58 lead.
Aside from another basket from Hamilton and Rankin’s three-ball, Drake and McNeil Jr. combined for 21 of Richmond’s final 26 points.
Thirteen points from McNeil Jr. featured five field goals and his final triple from the top of the arc. Drake, who is netting 18 PPG, stayed smooth in the paint for six more points down low to go with two free throws.
Rankin brought the house down when he made his three-pointer as time expired.
Leading the Patriots in scoring were Elijah Melton (22 points), Azir Gillespie (17 points) and Jaden Saunders and London Ravenell (both with 8 points).
With nearly a week before their next game, the Raiders (4-1, 1-0 SAC) will host Southern Lee High School on Monday, Dec. 11, at 7:30 p.m.
The Richmond Observer will publish a recap of the junior varsity boys’ basketball team’s game at Pinecrest on Wednesday.