ROCKINGHAM — Hoke athletic director Gary Brigman held out hope the weather would break to allow the Southeastern Conference basketball teams to return to the courts Friday night.
Brigman said if that were the case, he believed there would be enough time to squeeze in the conference tournament. He said the tournament is a big revenue generator for the conference and helps pay for the all-conference certificates and trophies.
Those plans were dashed when the five school districts elected to keep their students out of class Friday. Brigman called off the tournaments during a meeting with the rest of league athletic directors Friday afternoon in Raeford.
“It just makes the final two regular games that much more important,” Richmond boys coach David Laton said.
His counterpart, Richmond girls coach Victoria DeFrate, believes not having a tournament will help her team and the others in the conference prepare for postseason, which is set to begin on Feb. 24.
“It’s good (not having it) because it give us more time to practice after a long layoff,” DeFrate said. “I’m glad we aren’t trying to squeeze all these games in.”
With the tournament scrapped, the six schools now have a full week to wrap up the regular season before Brigman reports the final seedings to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association next Saturday. Because of this decision, the Hoke-Richmond and Lumberton-Scotland doubleheaders were moved from Saturday to later in the week.
The Raiders and the Scots will be the first teams to return to action, squaring off Monday night. The girls will start at 6 p.m., followed the boys at approximately 7:30 p.m. There are seeding ramifications in both contests.
The Scotland girls are 8-0 in the SEC this season and with a victory over Richmond will clinch the No. 1 seed for the state 4A playoffs. Richmond is 6-2 in conference play and could finish no worse than second with a win. A Richmond loss will keep Lumberton’s faint hopes of finishing second alive. The Pirates are 4-3 in the SEC and were swept by the Raiders this season.
The Richmond and Scotland boys are both 5-3 in the conference and have a chance to overtake Hoke (6-1) for first. However, both would need a great deal of help to accomplish that feat. The Scots have the opportunity to sweep the series and hold the tiebreaker over the Raiders, have defeated their rivals 66-65 on Feb. 5.
The Raiders will wrap up their regular season schedule at home against the Bucks on Thursday. The doubleheader was originally scheduled for Jan. 31, but was postponed because of the previous winter storm to Wednesday. It was again pushed back against because of Pax to today, but school officials elected to move it to Thursday.
Last fall, the NCHSAA elected to cut the number of automatic qualifiers from each conference from half the number of members plus one, to just half. With this ruling, the SEC will now have just three bids to the postseason.
Only the Scotland and Richmond girls teams have secured their spots into the playoffs, while none of the boys teams have locked down a berth. The Purnell Swett boys and girls squads are the only two teams to have been eliminated from qualifying for the postseason.
Unlike in years past when ties in the standings for the state playoffs were broken by the conference tournament, Young said the conference this season will rely on head-to-head matchups, then records against the highest seed on down, and then if needed, a coin flip. Young added there was discussion about leaving Friday open for any possible play-in games.
“We talked about it, but we wanted as normal a schedule as possible,” Young said.
Weather forces change in spring sports schedule
The Richmond baseball team’s scrimmage with Jack Britt and Union Pines set for Tuesday has been canceled according to Young. The three schools were originally slated to scrimmage today before postponing it because of the weather.
Richmond will now scrimmage Whiteville 4:30 p.m. Friday at Raider Field before opening its regular season on the road against Porter Ridge on Feb. 27.
The snow and ice also forced the Richmond softball team to postpone its scrimmage with Anson scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Wadesboro.
Richmond coach Wendy Wallace said the scrimmage with Anson will now be 1 p.m. Feb. 22 at home. Wallace added she isn’t sure Thursday’s home scrimmage with Union Pines will go on as scheduled. She hopes to make the scrimmage on Feb. 22 a three-team event with the Bearcats and the Vikings.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson may be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.