Friday, 08 February 2019 08:51

Middle School Basketball Playoffs: Hamlet, Rockingham boys and Ellerbe girls all advance

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Rockingham's Dakota Chavis (2) and Jaden Jenks (background) in action during Monday's win. Rockingham's Dakota Chavis (2) and Jaden Jenks (background) in action during Monday's win. Deon Cranford – The Richmond Observer.

RICHMOND COUNTY – The Southeastern Middle School Athletic Conference playoff tournament kicked off this week and three of the five Richmond County teams that qualified for the postseason saw first-round action on Thursday. 

The trio of in-county teams went 3-0 on the afternoon, with the girls’ team from Ellerbe Middle and the boys’ teams from Rockingham and Hamlet middle schools all advancing to Monday’s round two games.

Rockets eliminate Spring Hill

Last week, the Rockingham Middle School boys’ basketball team closed out the regular season in Laurinburg with a commanding 66-34 victory over the Spartans of Spring Hill Middle School.  Just seven days later, the two met once again, this time in Rockingham, in the first round of the SEMSAC tournament. 

Armed with the experience of playing the Rockets so recently, the Spartans traveled to Rockingham with a new game plan to try and keep the score low and close.  The No. 3 Rockets brushed off No. 6 Spring Hill’s upset bid and launched into the second round with a 42-30 win.

The Spartans’ strategy was evident from the opening tip.  They slowed down the pace of the game and burned as much time as possible from the clock with each possession.  In fact, they passed the ball around the perimeter 7 times on their first possession and ate nearly a minute and-a-half off of the first quarter clock. 

Once Julius Bowden’s Rockets began to apply pressure, the Spartans began to throw the ball away over and over again resulting in easy points on the other end.

Rockingham scored the game’s first seven points and led 13-3 at the end of the first quarter with nearly every Rocket basket being preceded by an errant pass by the Spartans.  At that point, Spring Hill’s slower tempo began to work against them as it reduced the number of possessions making it difficult to mount any kind of comeback.

Dakota Chavis led the way for the Rockets in the win with 12 points.  Jaden Jenks chipped in with eight points, Talan Stoner scored seven, Zion Baldwin netted six, Noah Hogan added five, and Emmanuel Gilliam added three.

The Rockets (7-3) will travel to Carver Middle School (8-1) on Monday.  The No. 2 Carver Eagles received a first round bye for finishing in second in the SEMSAC standings.

Red Rams avoid first round exit

When No. 4 Hamlet Middle School received a visit from No. 5 West Hoke Middle School, the Red Rams received all that they could handle.  The first time that the two teams met, the Tigers took an early lead only to have that game taken away in a 57-53 barnburner at Hamlet Middle School. 

On Thursday, the Red Rams thwarted West Hoke’s hopes to avenge that loss by rallying from behind once again and stealing a 66-55 victory from the visiting Tigers.

In the back-and-forth game, West Hoke entered the final quarter with a 49-48 lead.  Paul McNeil drained a three-pointer from the left wing to give the Red Rams a 51-49 lead with 5:15 left in the game. 

Not to be outdone by his teammate, JV Drake banked one in from nearly the same spot at the 4:04 mark extending the lead to five.  Drake, who ended with nine points in the game, scored seven in the fourth quarter beginning with that three-ball. 

West Hoke tried to fight their way back into the game, but several clutch free throws from McNeil in the final moments kept the Tigers at bay.

McNeil ended the afternoon with 18 points, CC Wall followed with 14, Xavier Wall scored 11, Zay Cephus netted seven, David McNair added four, Jamarion Bryant finished with two, and Ethan Locklear chipped in one from the free throw line.

The Red Rams (7-3) will travel to Raeford to battle with the No. 1 East Hoke Eagles (9-0) on Monday.  Hamlet lost a close 37-35 game to East Hoke earlier in the season.

Lady Wildcats advance past Sandy Grove

Ellerbe Middle School’s Ashlyn Bouldin only scored one point in Thursday’s round one game against visiting Sandy Grove, but it was a big one.  With the score knotted up at 26, Bouldin went to the free throw line with only 9.6 seconds remaining in the game. 

She connected on one of her two attempts, but that’s all that the Lady Wildcats needed for a 27-26 win.  A Sandy Grove free throw attempt moments later on a one-and-one missed its target, making Bouldin’s basket the difference between moving on and going home.

The win snapped a two-game losing streak for Ellerbe (6-4) and also guaranteed that the Lady Wildcats will finish the season above .500.

Curtia Crump led the Lady Wildcats with 13 points, Chloe Nunn followed with six, Layla Hayden finished with four, Lakeshia Little netted two, and Nyla Stroman joined Bouldin in the stat book with one.

No. 4 Ellerbe will now face in-county opponent No. 1 Rockingham (9-0) on Monday in the semi-final.  Rockingham and Hamlet (7-2) each advanced to the second round courtesy of a first round bye.  Hamlet will face No. 3 West Hoke in the other semi-final.