ROCKINGHAM — Richmond Senior boys basketball coach David Laton didn’t realize his team has the opportunity to do something it hasn’t done it quite awhile — open league play with two wins.
Richmond had the chance to accomplish the feat last season after opening Southeastern Conference play with a 66-46 win over Purnell Swett. The matchup with the Rams is normally the second game in the league rotation, but was moved up because of academic testing in Robeson County.
The following week, Hoke dashed Richmond’s hopes with a 80-72 victory at Raider Gymnasium.
Now the Raiders have another chance tonight to begin their SEC slate with a 2-0 mark after a 75-70 win last week in Raeford which snapped a six-game losing streak to the Bucks.
Richmond (9-4) isn’t the only team with the opportunity to remain undefeated in league play tonight in Raider Gymnasium as Lumberton will be shooting for the same goal.
“It’s an important game,” Laton said. “I’m going to tell the players it’s the biggest game of the year, then next week tell them that’s the biggest game of the year. That’s what Lefty Driesell used to do.”
Laton admits the winner of tonight’s game will get a leg up in the chase for the conference title by remaining undefeated.
“It’s not do or die and it’s not a must-win, but it is very important,” Laton said.
Lumberton opened SEC play with a 77-67 victory over Pinecrest to run its record to 8-6. The Pirates and the Raiders are the only two teams in the conference to sport winning marks on the season.
The other undefeated team in league play is Purnell Swett, it stopped Scotland 65-61 last week. The Rams are 3-7 on the season.
The Fighting Scots evened their SEC record at 1-1 following a hard-fought 43-37 victory against the Patriots Tuesday night. In addition to its game with Pinecrest, Scotland dropped a 45-33 contest at New Hanover Thursday to fall to 2-9 on the season.
Pinecrest and Hoke are the lone winless schools in league play. The Patriots are 0-2 in the SEC and 3-10 overall, while the Bucks are 0-1 and 5-9.
In addition to tonight’s Lumberton-Richmond matchup, Scotland will welcome Hoke to Laurinburg and Purnell Swett will try to remain unbeaten in league play when it travels to Southern Pines to battle Pinecrest.
Richmond was slated to square off with Marlboro County (S.C.) Saturday night, but athletic director Ricky Young said the game was canceled.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson may be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.