ROCKINGHAM — At one point in the opening moments of the second half, Richmond Senior led by 14 points and appeared set to cruise to an easy victory.
The only problem was Hoke wasn’t going to go away quietly.
The Bucks mounted a comeback and even grabbed a brief one-point lead in the fourth quarter before the Raiders recovered to post a 44-42 victory Thursday night. The win avenged a loss to the Bucks earlier this season.
After falling behind by the large margin, Hoke used its defense to force Richmond into several unforced turnovers which upset Richmond coach Victoria DeFrate.
“We wouldn’t get in our offense,” DeFrate said. “Once we got it past halfcourt we wouldn’t set up.”
One of the few times Richmond was able to run its offense was on the possession following a 3-pointer from Hoke’s Shanice Horne that put her team ahead 36-35 at the 5:27 mark of the fourth quarter. On the play, Davina LeGrande broke free in the lane and hit a runner to give Richmond the lead for good.
“Coach (Ted Gaskins) tells us if the defender is on top of you to cut to the goal and that’s what I did,” LeGrande said.
After LeGrande’s basket, the Raiders were forced to keep the Bucks at bay over the final five minutes. The Raiders built their advantage back out to five on a layup by Jade Evans with 2:27 left in the game before the Bucks put together one final rally to try and sweep the season series.
Hoke’s T.T. Spellers hit one of two free throws and Horne connected on a jumper to trim the deficit back to two. Mikayla King had the opportunity to tie the game at 42, but she missed both of her free throws. Richmond provided an unintentional boost by hitting 2 of 6 free throws in the game’s final 1:27.
The Bucks had two chances to possibly force overtime in the last 20 seconds. The first came on an inbounds play trailing by three after Kivana Keane went 1 of 2 at the free-throw line. Courtney Pate got the ball and fired a long-range jumper, just inside the 3-point line to cut the Raiders’ lead to 43-42.
The final opportunity came in the final moments of the game with Richmond leading by two, Horne received a pass in the backcourt and drove the length of the court, but her shot went off the side of the backboard as the horn sounded.
Richmond finishes its regular season with a 13-6 record and 7-3 in the Southeastern Conference. It will be the No. 2 seed out of the conference when the 4A playoff brackets are released Saturday afternoon. Hoke falls to 5-17 overall and 3-6 in the SEC and will close out its season tonight at Pinecrest.
“I don’t think the girls were aware of how this game would have affected our playoff seeding,” DeFrate said. “If we would have lost we could have finished in a tie with Lumberton for second. Even though we would have still been second because of the tiebreaker.”
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson may be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.