Tuesday, 07 December 2021 23:42

No. 9 Raiders roll past Southern Lee in first Sandhills Athletic Conference game

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Junior guard Dakota Chavis (5) had a career-high 14 points in Richmond's SAC win over Southern Lee. Junior guard Dakota Chavis (5) had a career-high 14 points in Richmond's SAC win over Southern Lee. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — Taking their first step in the “right direction” in trying to win the Sandhills Athletic Conference title, the Richmond Raiders eased past Southern Lee High School in their conference opener on Tuesday.

Extending the team’s winning streak to five games to begin the new campaign, the No. 9 Raiders rolled past the Cavaliers 70-44.

Richmond jumped 13 spots in the newest HighSchoolOT top 25 list, down from No. 22, which was released on Monday.

The Raiders collected their second-straight victory of at least 23 points, limiting the Cavaliers (0-5, 0-1 SAC) to just 19 points in the first half.

“Tonight was all about moving in the right direction,” head coach Donald Pettigrew said. “I told the guys it’s good to start off 1-0 in the conference, but we have to keep building on it. We can’t win the conference with just one game, so we need to continue to get better.

“We need to capitalize on games we’re supposed to win, like we did tonight,” he added.

Sophomore Paul McNeil sends home a one-handed jam in the first half of Tuesday’s SAC opener. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

Three Raiders scored in double digits — sophomore Javian Drake had a game-high 16 points, sophomore Paul McNeil netted 14 points (all in the first half) and junior Dakota Chavis scored a career-high 14 points.

Senior center Will Dawkins nearly tallied a double-double, grabbing a team-high 12 rebounds and scoring 9 points. All of Dawkins’ points came in the second half, including 8 points in the fourth quarter.

Chavis got Richmond’s scoring started with a putback on the opening possession, the first of his team-high 10 points in the first quarter. McNeil added a triple to give the Raiders an early 5-2 lead.

A 6-0 run by the Cavaliers shifted the momentum, but back-to-back drives from sophomore Jamarion Wall and Chavis put the Raiders back ahead. With the score later tied at 11 points, Chavis went on a 6-0 stretch by himself to put the Raiders in the lead for good.

“The last five games, Dakota has scored double digits in the first half. And that’s one of the things that has really helped us,” Pettigrew said. “I need to keep going to him more in the second half, but he’s really stepped up.”

Sophomore Javian Drake (3) lays in two of his game-high 16 points against Southern Lee. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

Leading 19-13 after the first, the Raiders tacked on 26 points in the second quarter to enter the locker room with a 45-19 advantage.

Eleven points from McNeil, coupled with 9 points from Drake in the second broke the game open. A putback from McNeil with 5:05 remaining started a 19-0 run that featured a transition jam from the 5-star recruit and points from Chavis, Drake and Wall.

Senior wing Xavier Collazo, who scored 3 points in the win, rattled home a triple from the left corner to kick off the second. Richmond led by as many as 26 points in the first half.

“Defensively, we’re not where we should be yet,” Pettigrew noted of what he’d like to see the team improve on. “We are still a little slow on things, but the effort is there.

“I loved the way we went on a spurt (in the second quarter) defensively where we were creating turnovers and scoring off of it,” he added. 

The two SAC teams traded point-for-point in the third, both netting 16 points. Pettigrew pulled many of his starters midway through the third, with Chavis and Drake adding their final points, all on free throws.

Wall netted the final four of his 7 points on two field goals, and junior Zion Baldwin joined the scoring parade with a pair of shots under the basket in transition for his 4 points.

The Raiders took their largest lead of the game (32 points) when Wall made a steal and went coast-to-coast for a layup with just over four minutes left in the third.

Dawkins started his scoring with a foul shot with 1:57 left on the clock. Senior Deshon Watson scored his lone basket in the win to help the Raiders take a 61-35 lead into the fourth.

Senior Domanyck McDonald became the ninth and final Raider to score in the win when he drained a free throw with 4:35 to play. Dawkins took over down the stretch, scoring Richmond’s final 8 points, including a spin-around jumper, in the closing 3:42.

Senior Will Dawkins (center) had a team-high 12 boards to go with his 9 points on Tuesday. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

“Spreading the wealth around has been big, and when we do that, it takes a lot off of Paul,” Pettigrew closed. “I have to do a better job of running sets for everyone else, but our goal of getting better as a team is working.”

McNeil added 8 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks in the win. Baldwin had 4 rebounds, Wall blocked 3 shots and Chavis dished out 3 assists.

Josh Stone led the Cavs with 11 points, followed by 7 points each from Isaiah Brown and Jaquan Williams.

Richmond (5-0, 1-0 SAC) will face a tougher test on Friday when Pinecrest High School (2-1) visits Raider Gymnasium for another SAC game. Tip off is set for 7:30 p.m.

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_