Friday, 22 February 2019 22:04

Raiders' efforts come up just short in SAC title game; set sights on state playoffs

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Senior Alex Quick (35) scored a team-high 20 points in Friday's SAC tournament title game. Senior Alex Quick (35) scored a team-high 20 points in Friday's SAC tournament title game. Kyle Pillar — The Richmond Observer.

FAYETTEVILLE — The Richmond Senior High School varsity boys’ basketball team saw its “Raider Magic” run out about 30 seconds shy of clinching Friday’s Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament championship.

In the position to win the game in the closing seconds, the No. 3 Raiders lost to No. 1 Seventy-First High School 69-65. It marked the Falcons’ first conference championship since 2017, when they defeated Overhills High School in double overtime in the Mid-South Conference title game.

The Raiders’ SAC tournament run started with a five-point win over No. 6 Jack Britt High School Monday, and followed with an 54-48 upset win over No. 2 Pinecrest High School on Wednesday. While Richmond came up two possessions short against the Falcons, second-year head coach Donald Pettigrew expressed how proud he was of his team’s fight.

“They played tonight like they have all year -- relentless,” Pettigrew said following the game. “We were down by double digits in the second half, but the guys didn’t quit. They kept believing in each other and kept it up until the end. That’s all I can ask for.

“I hate it for my seniors,” he added. “I wanted them to go out as conference tournament champs. They’re all taking it hard, but we still have the playoffs next week. If we keep it up, we’re going to be tough to beat.”

The Falcons (24-3) entered the night averaging 85 points per game during the SAC tournament, while also outscoring their previous two opponents by an average of 21.5 points. A strong third quarter by senior guard Brion McLaurin that saw 14 of his game-high 28 points helped erase a Richmond halftime lead.

Both teams got out to a fast start, finishing the first quarter tied at 19 points. The Raiders (16-11) used buckets by five different players, including a combined five three-pointers. Senior shooting guard Rod Newton splashed home three of his team-high four triples, while senior Alex Quick and sophomore PJ McLaughlin hit the other two.

The first quarter saw four ties and five lead changes, with McLaughlin’s three-ball serving as the tying shot with 39 seconds left. Seventy-First’s Demauriea Nickelson opened the second frame with three-straight fastbreak layups to give the home team a six-point advantage.

Quick, who finished the game with a team-high 20 points, got his streak started just past the midway point of the second. He closed out the final three and a half minutes by outscoring the Falcons 12-3.

He splashed home a triple to start the run, before adding three field goals and another deep three from the top of the key to give the Raiders a 35-33 halftime lead.

Out of the intermission, sophomore guard Caleb Hood drove the paint for two of his 15 points, and saw another bucket from Quick extend the lead. But a McLaurin drive with a made and-one opportunity sparked a 10-0 run by the senior. He had four field goals and two made free throws in just over two and a half minutes.

Trailing 48-39, Quick stopped the bleeding with a pair of free throws, before a free throw by sophomore Nygie Stroman and a bucket by senior Xavier Pettigrew made it a four-point game.

McLaurin capped his quarter by adding two more putbacks under the rim, while a three-ball by Thomas Hendricks gave Seventy-First an 11-point lead, 59-48, heading into the fourth.

In the final eight minutes, the Raiders outscored the Falcons 17-10, but not before getting down 13 points thanks to a Hendricks drive. Hood and Newton were responsible for 14 points in the frame, scoring seven apiece.

With 3:25 to go, and Richmond down 63-51, the Falcons’ Trevon Bell picked up his fifth foul and sent Newton to the line for a one-and-one opportunity. On the way to the bench, Bell received an ejection by an official, affording Newton four chances from the line.

Newton knocked down all four buckets, and was followed by a 5-0 run by Hood on the next two possessions. Hood connected on a baseline drive, before completing an old-fashioned three-point play on the next sequence. Cutting the deficit to 63-60, Seventy-First’s head coach David Simmons called a timeout with 2:15 to go.

Richmond’s final two buckets would come on a Newton three-pointer and a Hood short-range jumper in the paint. With 33 seconds left in regulation, and down two points, the Raiders inbounded the ball and wound the clock.

Senior Jarvis Tillman put up a three-point attempt with under 10 seconds to go, with Seventy-First scooping up the rebound. An immediate foul sent Nickelson to the line, and he made both with three seconds left.

Quick’s 20 points were aided by 16 from Newton, 15 more from Hood, and Stroman added five points. McLaurin led all scorers with 26 points, with Nickelson contributing 17 points of his own.

“We just gave them too many extra possessions tonight,” Pettigrew said. “But Seventy-First is one of the top teams in the state. I think this game has helped us get ready for the playoffs, especially against a team we haven’t played (this season).

“We still have to come out and play next week,” he concluded. “Alex is a great kid and we’ve seen glimpses of him play this way this season. Hopefully he keeps tonight going for the state playoffs.”

The NCHSAA is expected to release its 2018-19 playoff brackets Saturday. Currently, the Raiders are projected to get a No. 17 seed and travel to No. 16 Panther Creek High School (21-5). ROSports will update this when the official brackets come out.

Last modified on Friday, 22 February 2019 22:23

Kyle Pillar

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

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