ROCKINGHAM — In the final 9.7 seconds of the game, both teams executed their coach’s plans to near perfection.
The difference in the contest was Anson’s final shot bounced off the back rim. That miss allowed Richmond to escape with an 85-82 victory Friday night at Raider Gymnasium.
After William Smith drained a 3-point field goal to inch the Bearcats to within one point, Richmond coach David Laton designed an inbounds play for T.J. Watkins. The junior caught the pass before being quickly fouled.
“We set it up to get him the ball,” Laton said. “We knew he would get fouled and make both free throws.”
Watkins converted the foul shots to push the Raiders’ advantage back to three with 8.5 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing possession, Anson rushed the ball up the court and Smith was able to break free on the right wing. Smith misfired on the game-tying shot and despite pulling down the offensive rebound, the Bearcats were unable to get off another shot before time expired.
“We got the shot we wanted,” Anson coach Brandon Rains said. “We wanted him to shoot that shot. It’s unfortunate it didn’t fall.”
Those final moments described the contest in a nutshell — up-and-down and back-and-forth.
At the end of first quarter the Bearcats (4-8) built a 12-point lead before the Raiders stormed back to take a 39-36 advantage at halftime.
Richmond (7-4) extended its lead to as much as 11 in the opening moments of the final quarter only to watch Anson go on a run to trim it to four. The Raiders responded behind back-to-back 3-pointers from Watkins to go in front 80-70 with 2:40 left in the game.
“The system is about creating runs,” Rains said. “Kids know even if we are down 10 we still have a chance.”
Once again the Bearcats responded. This time with a 12-3 run to set up the exciting final 10 seconds of the contest.
“We just couldn’t push out against them,” Laton said. “It’s a good win against a team that is tough to play against. We just had to push the ball. We had to get it out of the backcourt and look for the open players. We just missed open layups in the fourth.”
Xavier Davis netted a game-high 21 points to lead the way for the Raiders. Watkins finished with 16, Greg Patterson and Tre Pettigrew both scored 13. Pettigrew added 12 rebounds despite being saddled with foul trouble. Sidney Neely also finished with a double-double, knocking in 11 points and snagging 10 boards.
Parrish Stevons paced the Bearcats with 16 points, Ervin Bennett and Davis finished with 14. Devonta Teal and Jerrell McNeil added 11 and 10, respectively.
Richmond will return to action 7:30 p.m. Tuesday when it plays host to Marlboro County.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.