ROCKINGHAM — All it took was erasing a seven-point deficit in the game’s final 1:17 and hitting a free throw with no time remaining in overtime for Richmond Senior to keep its Southeastern Conference title hopes alive.
Richmond improved to 6-3 in the SEC with Monday’s victory and dropped Scotland to 5-4 to secure at least the No. 2 seed. It was a must-win for the home team to make Thursday’s game with Hoke being the de facto SEC championship game.
The Bucks only conference loss came to the Raiders by five in Raeford. In order to secure the top seed from the SEC in next week’s state 4A playoffs, the Bucks must win two of their final three games.
Hoke (7-1) took the first step by stopping Purnell Swett 77-61 Tuesday night. Even if the Bucks were to lose to the Raiders Thursday, they could still take the conference title with a win Friday over Pinecrest.
Lumberton kept its postseason hopes on life support with its 65-64 victory over Pinecrest. The loss to the Pirates dropped the Patriots to 3-6 in the SEC and eliminated them from playoff contention.
Lumberton has to win its final two games — Scotland and Purnell Swett — in order to snag the No. 3 seed. The Pirates and the Scots will square off tonight in Laurinburg. A Lumberton win over Scotland means it will have to defeat Purnell Swett Friday to make the playoffs. A victory by the home team gives the Scots the postseason berth.
The Richmond girls didn’t have to take the court Tuesday to earn the No. 2 seed out the SEC that came when Pinecrest knocked off Lumberton 39-34.
The Raiders are 6-3 in the conference, the Pirates dropped to 4-4 with the loss, while the Patriots improved to 4-5. Even though the Pirates could still tie the Raiders with a 6-4 mark for second, Richmond holds the tiebreaker having swept the season series.
By virtue of its victory Pinecrest has now crept back into the postseason picture. Lumberton will travel to Laurinburg tonight to face Scotland before wrapping up its regular season at home against its in-county rival Purnell Swett. Pinecrest will welcome Hoke Friday night in its regular season finale.
On paper, there is a strong possibility Pinecrest and Lumberton will finish in a tie for third in the conference. With only the top three schools automatically advancing to the state playoffs, it will come down to the final tiebreaker — a coin flip — to determine which team qualifies.
Hoke kept its faint postseason aspirations alive after stopping Purnell Swett 59-49 Tuesday night and improving to 3-5 in the SEC. It would still need to defeat Richmond Thursday and Pinecrest Friday as well as have Lumberton lose its final two contests. If Hoke and Lumberton were to both finish with 5-5 records, Lumberton would earn the automatic berth because it swept the season series.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson may be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.