The battle between two of the best teams in the Southeastern Conference lived up to the hype Friday night at Raider Gymnasium.
By the time the “Green Out” crowd filed out, Hoke proved why it is one of the favorites to make the trip to Chapel Hill at the end of the season.
In the loss, Richmond Senior showed it could play with the big boys and with a win in the rematch could make the race for the SEC title very interesting.
Hoke coach Quame Patterson was so impressed with the home team he said the contest was like playing “a national championship” in the conference opener.
Forgive Patterson for his statement because it was the opener for his team, but Richmond and Purnell Swett got a leg up on the league by hitting the hardwood a week earlier because of testing.
The sentiment is what was important because Patterson sees the Raiders as a serious threat. The Bucks built a double-digit lead in the first half and were on the verge of blowing the game wide open when the Raiders came storming back.
Hoke went on an 11-3 run at the halfway point of the second quarter to turn a six-point lead into a 14-point bulge. Richmond started chipped away and when Trey Pettigrew connected on a 3-pointer in the final seconds, the deficit was only seven at halftime.
That momentum continued into the final 16 minutes of play. The Bucks’ biggest advantage of eight points came twice, once at the 6:54 mark of the fourth quarter as well as in the final 23.2 seconds of the contest.
The record book will show an 80-72 win for Hoke. To those in attendance, wearing either green or red, it was much closer than it.
After tying the game at 67 with 3:34 left, the Raiders struggled to find their rhythm offensively over the next two minutes. One missed shot led to another and one turnover turned into two. By the time Shydamion Ellerbe ended the scoreless streak, the Bucks were comfortably ahead by five and eyeing their 12th win in 14 games.
In the loss Richmond coach David Laton was able to find several positives to build upon for the Lumberton game Friday night.
Laton believes having those late-game miscues pop up was the best thing for his team. Laton said the players have been making adjustments to ensure those don’t occur again.
Richmond’s offensive woes in the final minutes of the Hoke loss could be attributed to the absence of Jordan Richardson. The senior missed his second game because of disciplinary reasons, but is expected to return against the Pirates.
During this time, Laton believes he may have found a role for Richardson — sixth man. Laton believes the switch will allow Richardson to avoid foul trouble because the senior has fouled out four times this season. In addition, Laton sees Richardson providing an offensive spark off the bench.
The next few weeks will show if the loss will be a bump in the road for Richmond or an obstacle too difficult to overcome.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.