Sunday, 11 October 2020 12:04

McLaughlin's free throws clutch in Raiders' fourth-straight win

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Senior point guard PJ McLaughlin drives the paint during Saturday's win over the Bulldogs. Senior point guard PJ McLaughlin drives the paint during Saturday's win over the Bulldogs. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

FAYETTEVILLE — Efficiency from the free throw line has been something the Raiders and senior point guard Patrick McLaughlin have been working on during the offseason.

The extra work paid off for McLaughlin on Saturday, as his clutch performance from the line helped the Raiders earn their fourth-straight win in the 9 Dime Fall League. Competing against the Bulldogs (Berean Baptist Academy), Richmond held on for a 63-59 victory.

Now 4-0 in the fall development league, the Raiders used a team-high 19 points from McLaughlin. Down the stretch in the second half, he was a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe.

“We played pretty good in spots and moments,” coach Maurice McLaurin said. “At the end of the game we kind of let it get away from us. But the guys played a pretty good game.

“PJ led us on both ends of the floor,” he continued. “To give credit to him, he’s been working on his free throws since April. He’s been in the gym and that’s a part of our workout.”

Freshman forward Paul McNeil also had a big day for the Raiders, scoring 12 points and adding five rebounds. He hit a couple of deep three-pointers to keep Richmond ahead.

Senior shooting guard Dylan Lewis and fellow sophomore guard Dakota Chavis each contributed nine points in the win, with Chavis also scooping up five boards. Junior forward Luke Williams rounded out the scoring attack with seven points, all in the first half.

“Paul is very promising and we’re looking for big things out of him,” McLaurin said. “Even though he’s a ninth grader, we believe he can step up and help us get where we need to get.

“We feel like anyone on this team can score and we tell that to the guys,” he added of the wealth of scoring. “Everyone is capable of putting the ball in the bucket, so when they get their chance to shoot, we want them to take that opportunity.”

Both teams traded points early on in the first half, seeing five ties and lead changes through the opening 12 minutes. A McNeil jumper from the paint at the 6:40 mark of the half put the Raiders up by two, a lead they wouldn’t give up the rest of the game.

Three-pointers from McNeil (left wing) and Williams (right corner) in the closing minutes of the half kept Richmond’s lead at five points. McLaughlin closed the half on a three-point run, driving to the bucket and completing the and-one opportunity. Richmond led 30-24 at the break.

The Raiders used an 8-2 run in the middle of the second half to open their lead to eight points, their largest of the game. McLaughlin hit a triple from the left corner before adding a mid-range jumper, while McNeil answered with a three-ball from the left wing.

But the Bulldogs would make it interesting down the stretch, going on a 9-2 run to close the gap to just one point, 55-54. 

With just 1:36 left to play, McLaughlin would account for six straight free throws and Chavis helped seal the deal with a hard drive through the paint. McLaughlin’s final two shots from the line came with 0.8 seconds on the clock.

Charles Clark, the league’s director and a high school basketball scout, acknowledged Chavis, McLaughlin and McNeil’s efforts on Twitter following the win. Richmond will be back in action next Saturday at New Life Christian Academy.

VIDEO: PJ McLaughlin talks about stepping up as a leader at the free throw line.

VIDEO: Paul McNeil discusses his 12-point effort in Saturday’s win.

Last modified on Sunday, 11 October 2020 12:17
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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