ROCKINGHAM — After Shydamion Ellerbe hit both of his free throws with 3:34 remaining in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 67, the “green out” crown in Raider Gymnasium sensed an upset was in the works.
There was only one problem — Richmond Senior went scoreless over the next two minutes.
Hoke County, on the other hand, closed out the contest by connecting on 7-of-8 free throws in the final 69 seconds to pull out an 80-72 victory Friday night.
“We couldn’t get the lead in the fourth quarter,” Richmond coach David Laton said. “We had a travelling call and some missed shots. I thought we got careless at the end. We should have gone inside but instead we took some 3s.”
While the Raiders were floundering on the offensive end in the final moments of the game, the Bucks were hitting their stride. The preseason conference favorites scored on seven of their last eight possessions.
“That is why schedule teams like Seventy-First, New Hanover and Hoggard to be able to handle the pressure at the end of games,” Hoke coach Quame Patterson said. “Let me tell you, Richmond is tough too. They have shooters, big men and are well coached. It’s too bad the national championship was played in the first round of the conference.”
Tarique Thompson, who finished with a team-high 24 points, drained both of his free throws to give the Bucks (12-2, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) the lead for good at the 3:11 mark. After Ellerbe came up short on a jumper in the lane, Hoke’s Rashad Parker connected on a hook shot to push the advantage to four.
On Richmond’s next possession, Josh Calhoun was whistled for travelling, giving the ball back to the visitors. A runner by Brennen Wright, which seemed to use all of the rim before trickling into the net, gave the Bucks a six-point cushion.
“I thought we made a couple of bad-shot selections,” Laton said. “They made some tough shots in the first half and down the stretch. They’re a talented team.”
Ellerbe ended Hoke’s 6-0 run by hitting 1-of-2 free throws with 1:45 left in the game, forcing Richmond to start fouling in the final moments. Tymell Blue went 3 for 4, while Parker and Wright hit both of their attempts to ice the game. Joining Thompson in double figures for the Bucks were: Juwane Harris, who scored all 15 of his points in the first half, Parker with 14, Wright had 12, and Blue scored 10.
Ellerbe netted a team-high 24 points to lead three Raiders in double figures. Calhoun added 14 and Trey Pettigrew chipped in with 12.
Richmond (11-4, 1-1) will not return to action until 7:30 p.m. Friday when it travels to Lumberton.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.