Monday, 17 February 2020 22:18

No. 3 Raiders to use 'energy' with hopes to return to SAC tournament championship

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The No. 3 Raiders open SAC tournament play at home Tuesday against No. 6 Purnell Swett. The No. 3 Raiders open SAC tournament play at home Tuesday against No. 6 Purnell Swett. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — Donald Pettigrew saw a different kind of energy emanated from his players during Friday’s regular-season finale win over rival Scotland High School.

Now he hopes to see that same kind of energy play a role in the Richmond Senior High School boys’ basketball team’s run through the Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament. The Raiders are looking to return to the tournament championship game for the second season in a row.

Following the five-point win over the Fighting Scots, the Raiders locked up third place in the SAC standings. That earned them a home game against No. 6 Purnell Swett High School, which will be played on Tuesday.

“Our energy was different Friday,” Pettigrew explained of the win over Scotland. “We’re playing some good ball right now, and our guys fed off that energy. It was a great game, back and forth, which is what a rivalry is meant to be.

“If we play like that in the conference tournament, we’ll be fun to watch,” he added.

A team that Richmond (17-7) has beaten twice already this season, the Rams (7-15) come into Tuesday’s game on a four-game losing streak. In the two regular-season contests, the Raiders have defeated Purnell Swett by an average of 33.5 points.

Meanwhile, the Raiders have won four of their last five games.

The first meeting saw Richmond coast to a 61-34 home win on Dec. 5, before making the trip to Pembroke on Jan. 24 and earning a 69-29 victory. Although the numbers lean in favor of his team, Pettigrew said Richmond won’t take the Rams lightly.

“It’s tough to beat a team twice in the same season, so the third time will also be tough,” Pettigrew said. “They have the leading scorer in the conference in Xavier Jones, so we’ve got to be ready to play.”

Jones, a senior power forward, is averaging an SAC-best 24 points per contest this year.

“We’re not looking ahead,” he added of the second or championship rounds. “Our plan right now is to get through the first round.

“But if we do make the second round, and in order to win the tournament, we have to play all 32 minutes of every game,” he added. “We know that we’ll likely face Lumberton in the second round and we have to do a better job of getting the ball inside.”

Lumberton High School earned the No. 2 seed in the tournament, and if both the Pirates and Raiders win their opening games, the two teams will likely meet for a third time this season. 

The Pirates (20-4) have Richmond’s number, winning both regular-season games and outscored the Raiders by 59 points. 

Both times Jordan McNeil and Charlie Miller proved to be tough to defend, as Pettigrew said “containing” the senior point guard and junior shooting guard will be key if a third meeting were to happen.

Pinecrest High School (21-3) earned the top seed and will play No. 8 Hoke County High School on Tuesday. The Raiders split with the Patriots this winter, taking the first game by three points before dropping the second game by three points.

Pinecrest, along with Lumberton, pose as Richmond’s biggest threats.

When asked what the x-factor would be for the Raiders to win the whole thing, which they almost did last year against Seventy-First High School, Pettigrew said it comes down to basketball basics.

“Defensively we have to play tough, that’s where it starts,” he closed. “We need to knock down shots, take care of the ball and do the little things that help win games.

“Our conference is a tough conference, and we need to have that same intensity and energy (on Tuesday.”

The Raiders, who are projected as the No. 15 seed in the 4A West bracket of the state playoffs, will welcome in Purnell Swett at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

Last modified on Monday, 17 February 2020 22:56

Kyle Pillar

Sports Editor. IUP communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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