ROCKINGHAM — Scotland coach Janie Hodges figured her team was going to be in a dogfight against its arch rival as it was gunning to clinch the Southeastern Conference title.
She just didn't know how difficult it was going to be.
Scotland pulled away from Richmond in the second half to claim a 55-47 win Monday night at Raider Gymnasium. The victory allowed the Scots to improve to 11-7 on the season, 9-0 in the SEC and secure the top seed out of the conference when the 4A playoff brackets are revealed this weekend.
“We were out for six days because of the snow, so we hadn't practiced,” Hodges said. “I knew coming in that Richmond was going to be ready to play and they never gave up.”
After beginning the season 2-6, Scotland has reeled off wins in nine of its last 10 games. Hodges figured the Scots would get off to a rocky start with two freshman, two sophomores and a junior in the starting lineup.
“We're young and took a lot of lumps in the beginning,” Hodges said. “I think it helped us grow and mature and it's showing at the right time. The hard work is beginning to pay off for them. It's been a long season and these wins haven't come easy.”
The Raiders dropped to 12-6 overall and 6-3 in the SEC. Richmond has the inside track to finish second in the conference with a victory over Hoke Thursday or a loss by Lumberton in any of its final three games.
“Hoke is a must-win for us,” Richmond coach Victoria DeFrate said. “We can't control what the other teams are going to do.”
The Raiders almost didn't need to worry about the Bucks after surging ahead by six points midway through the second quarter on a 3-pointer by Shaquail Wall. The Scots responded with a 12-4 run to close out the period and take a two-lead into halftime.
DeFrate was disappointed with the way her squad shot the ball against Scotland, especially inside the paint.
“Our post players need to get better,” DeFrate said. “It was kind of a down game for them. It's the same thing over and over, we missed too many easy shots. If we're losing, we're missing easy shots.”
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson may be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.