Tuesday, 19 January 2021 22:31

Low-scoring second half haunts Raiders in loss to Pirates

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Freshman Paul McNeil (2) netted a career-high 24 points in Richmond's loss to Lumberton on Tuesday. Freshman Paul McNeil (2) netted a career-high 24 points in Richmond's loss to Lumberton on Tuesday. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

LUMBERTON — An electric start by the Richmond Senior High School boys’ basketball team was undone by an uncharacteristically low-scoring second half on Tuesday.

Playing for the first time in 14 days due to COVID-19 protocols, the Raiders let a first-half lead slip away on the road at Lumberton High School. Despite holding a six-point lead at the break, Richmond fell to the defending 4A co-state champion Pirates 67-52.

Head coach Donald Pettigrew said the extended time between games wasn’t an excuse for the team’s first loss of the season. He pointed to Richmond’s nine total points in the second half as the major reason, and noted the team was without regular contributors Travis Thomas, Dylan Lewis and Jamarion Wall.

“The time off didn’t affect us any, we’ve been running hard every day and that’s not an excuse,” Pettigrew said. “And we came out and really played great in the first and second quarters. The guys shot the ball well and played tough defense. 

“But the second half killed us. We scored nine points and we can’t win when we do that,” he added. “We missed a lot of free throws and left a lot of points on the floor.”

Even though it was a loss, Pettigrew said it’s not all bad. Per the Sandhills Athletic Conference modifying conference play to officially begin on Friday, the defeat won’t hurt the Raiders’ chance at a conference title.

“That’s really the only good thing because it won’t count against our conference record,” Pettigrew said. “I told the guys we need to continue to get better. Lumberton brought it to us in the second half and adjusted to us well. We need to answer that next time.”

The atmosphere of Tuesday’s game mirrored a playoff contest despite there being a limited crowd. The last time Richmond faced the Pirates in the 2019-20 SAC tournament, the Raiders upset Lumberton in the second round with a double-digit win.

Both squads picked up where they left off, trading buckets and the lead in the opening half. Freshman Paul McNeil was lights out for Richmond, scoring 22 of his career-high 24 points in the first two frames. In just his second varsity game, McNeil drained five three-pointers, all in the first 16 minutes.

Seniors Nygie Stroman and Patrick McLaughlin also started the game off strong for the Raiders, netting 10 and 8 points, respectively. The pair of Raiders would finish the game with 11 points each.

Matt Locklear led the Pirates with 17 points, netting 12 points in the decisive second half. Joining him in double figures for Lumberton were Charlie Miller (13 points), and Angel Bowie and Cobe Oxendine, who each had 12 points.

The opening stanza ended in a 24-24 tie, but saw Richmond trail by as many as five points with 1:42 to play. The Raiders began the game on a 12-6 run, using three points from McLaughlin and Stroman, as well as back-to-back triples from opposite wings from McNeil.

Lumberton responded with an 11-0 run over the next 1:49 of play to take a 17-12 lead. But helping close the gap were three McLaughlin free throws, a McNeil triple from the right side and a triple from junior Xavier Collazo in the left corner.

Following a bucket from Bowie in the closing minute, Stroman knotted the score at 24 points with a deep triple withs seven seconds left.

McNeil started the second with consecutive three-balls in the first minute to give the Raiders a 30-24 lead. Richmond’s advantage climbed to as many as eight points with the help of a Stroman putback jam and three McLaughlin free throws, part of an 11-3 run to begin the frame.

A 10-6 run by Lumberton made the game a six-point lead, 43-37, for Richmond entering the locker room. McNeil kept Richmond ahead with an old-fashioned three-point play and Stroman knocked in an offensive rebound with five seconds to play.

“We know what Paul can bring to a game and he’s been working on that all year,” Pettigrew said. “But he just stopped being so aggressive in the second half and I told him he always needs to stay aggressive.”

Out of the break, Lumberton would outscore RIchmond 19-3 in the third quarter and 11-6 in the fourth quarter. 

A McNeil drive and a Stroman free throw accounted for the third-quarter points, and McLaughlin and junior Deshon Watson each netted three points in the final eight minutes.

“We were knocking down shots and playing good defense in the beginning,” Stroman said. “But as the game went on, I felt like I let the team down and didn’t step up as a leader. I didn’t play my best game offensively, defensively or leadership wise.

“We all need to step it up and get back in the gym,” he added. “I know we can improve on our strengths and weaknesses as a team.”

Senior C.J. Tillman and McNeil led Richmond with nine rebounds each, while sophomore Dakota Chavis grabbed eight boards. Stroman and Watson tallied six apiece.

“Going forward I think we’ll be fine,” Pettigrew closed. “We need to continue getting better and finish games. Each game is 32 minutes and we didn’t play a complete game tonight.”

Richmond is scheduled to open official SAC next Tuesday against Pinecrest High School. Tip is set for 7 p.m. at home.

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

Submit local sports scores to: kpillar@richmondobserver.com

Twitter: ROSports_