Saturday, 04 December 2021 00:50

Watson's buzzer beater helps Raiders edge Pine Forest in Jason Norton Classic

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Coach Donald Pettigrew celebrates with the Raiders after being given the Jason Norton Classic trophy, presented by Lauren Norton. Coach Donald Pettigrew celebrates with the Raiders after being given the Jason Norton Classic trophy, presented by Lauren Norton. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — Raider Magic was alive and well all the way down to the final buzzer on Friday to help the Richmond boys’ basketball team retain its title as the Jason Norton Classic champion.


Hosting Pine Forest High School in a game honoring the late Jason Norton, who was a beloved coach and athletic director in both communities, the Raiders used a putback from senior Deshon Watson at the buzzer to win 66-64.

“Jason was a great guy and I worked with him at Richmond,” Pettigrew said. “We were assistant coaches together and we had some great times. Playing in his memory is a blessing and to keep the trophy here for a second year is even nicer.”

Lauren Norton, the wife of the late Jason Norton, was on hand to present the Raiders with the Jason Norton Classic trophy after the win.

Following a three-pointer by Pine Forest’s Darrius Simmons that tied the game at 64 points with 10.4 seconds to go, the Raiders had one last possession. 

Sophomore Javian Drake, who started a 16-8 run with a steal and transition bucket during the final 4:55 of regulation, took a mid-range shot off a pass from sophomore Paul McNeil. 

It hit the iron and fell into Watson’s hands, who made the game-winner while falling to the ground.

Senior Deshon Watson (4), shown making a basket in the first quarter, scored the game-winner on Friday. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

It was the Raiders’ third straight win to start the season, and was also the third game to be decided in the final minute of regulation or overtime.

In front of a home crowd that Pettigrew called “epic” and applauded its energy, the Raiders earned the win after trailing for the majority of the game.

McNeil, who tallied 28 points, tied the game at 58 points with a stepback jumper with 2:41 to play in the fourth. He added the and-one opportunity to give the Raiders their first lead of the game.

Simmons made a bucket on a drive with 2:05 left, but McNeil answered with his final points of the game with a deep three-pointer from the top of the arc with 1:47 left in regulation.

With Richmond leading 62-60, Simmons hit a free throw with 55.8 ticks left. That was answered by a layup from Drake, which he hit high off the glass, to set up the final two sequences by both teams.

Sophomore Javian Drake steals the ball from Xayden Watson (11) to start a late-game run by the Raiders. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

“We just kept chipping away,” Pettigrew explained. “Coach (Jimmy) Peaden does a heck of a job and had his boys ready to play. They made it difficult for us, but our guys didn’t get flustered. We played hard and I’m pleased with how we competed.

“Everybody was doing things to help us,” he added. “Paul would make a shot, J.V. (Drake) would do something here, or Dakota (Chavis) would do something there. It was a team effort and this has been a tough week for the guys losing two young people. We played through it and I’m proud of them.”

Richmond trailed 15-13 after the first quarter, and it was junior guard Dakota Chavis who led the way with 7 points to start. McNeil added 4 points and Watson scored his only other bucket of the game on a drive in the final minute.

Pine Forest opened its lead to seven points, 25-18, just a couple of minutes into the second quarter. A pair of three-pointers from sophomore Jamarion Wall, and a breakaway jam by McNeil, cut the Raiders’ halftime deficit to 34-29.

Sophomore Paul McNeil (2) dunks the ball in the second quarter. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

Richmond would trail by as many as 8 points in the third quarter. A deep two from Wall, who finished with 10 points, sparked a 10-4 run that pulled the Raiders within two points, 43-41.

Chavis, who tallied 11 points, was responsible for two baskets that made it a one possession game in the third. But the Trojans closed the stanza on a 4-0 run to take a 51-45 lead into the fourth.

Two more eight-point deficits loomed over the Raiders to start the final period, but a McNeil putback and free throw made it a 55-50 hole with 5:40 to play.

The Raiders’ next basket was the steal and layup from Drake, who had 6 points in the win, which started the final push by Richmond’s offense. Junior Zion Baldwin contributed 7 points for the Raiders.

Simmons led the scoring for the Trojans (3-1) with 17 points, netting 15 points in the second half. Tristin Harkins, who left the game in the second quarter with an injury, added 11 points.

Also scoring for Pine Forest were Xayden Watson (10 points), Jordan Jones (8 points), and both Chamond Williams and Justin Eaglin had 7 points.

“I’m excited for Deshon, he’s a winner,” Pettigrew closed. “He’s a class act and a great kid who was in the right spot. He’s not the biggest or fastest kid, but he’s our glue guy who does all the little things the right way.”

The Raiders pose with the Jason Norton Classic trophy following their win over Pine Forest. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

Richmond (3-0) will look to keep its three-game winning streak intact on Saturday when the Raiders travel to non-conference Jack Britt High School (0-3). Tip off is set for 6 p.m.

VIDEO INTERVIEW: Senior Deshon Watson and sophomore Javian Drake break down the pivotal moments late in the Raiders’ 66-64 win over Pine Forest.

Last modified on Saturday, 04 December 2021 00:56
Kyle Pillar

Nine-time N.C. Press Association 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_

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