ROCKINGHAM — Richmond Senior doesn’t have to think about scoreboard watching anymore this season.
It didn’t come easy, but Richmond locked down a bid into the state 4A playoffs with its 61-47 opening-round victory over Hoke County Tuesday night in Raider Gymnasium. Up the road in Southern Pines, Pinecrest eliminated Purnell Swett, 66-24.
After finishing fourth in the regular season, the Raiders needed to avoid having either the Bucks or the Rams win the Southeastern Conference tournament to secure their berth into the postseason. If Hoke or Purnell Swett would have captured the tourney title, then Richmond would have been bounced out of the playoffs.
“It feels good we did it ourselves,” Richmond guard Shaquail Wall said. “We didn’t think we were going to make the playoffs, but we knew there was still a chance.”
The Raiders trailed by eight midway through the third quarter before going on a 14-3 run to take control of the contest behind their defense. Wall scored back-to-back baskets, one off a steal, during this stretch to put Richmond ahead for good.
“Turnovers have been a problem for us all season,” Hoke coach Derek Butler said. “Things just started to steamroll for us. They did a great job of turning up the pressure. We didn’t do a good job of making decisions.”
Richmond coach Victoria DeFrate believed her team’s ability to disrupt Hoke’s offense was the key in the turnaround.
“We seemed to lose focus in the second quarter,” DeFrate said. “We got more aggressive on defense. Instead of letting them make easy passes, we got into the passing lanes and got some steals and turnovers.”
Wall finished with a team-high 21 points for the Raiders (7-16). Jade Evans added 19, while Kivana Keane chipped in with nine in the win.
Hoke’s Courtney Pate scored 17 of her 21 points in the first 16 minutes. She netted all of the Bucks’ points in a 10-1 run over the final 2:09 of the first half, which propelled Hoke to a 33-25 halftime lead. Pate was the lone Bucks’ player to score in double figures.
Richmond will travel to face top-seeded Scotland 7 p.m. Thursday in one semifinal contest. Lumberton, the No. 2 seed, will play host to Pinecrest (15-8) in the other. The Pirates (18-5) won both of the meetings with the Patriots by an average of four points.
The Fighting Scots (18-3) swept the season series with the Raiders, winning by an average of 41 1/2 points a game. In the first meeting, Scotland cruised to a 79-37 victory in Rockingham. In the last matchup Friday night, the Fighting Scots claimed a 68-27 win.
“We have to go out there and play hard,” Wall said. “Nothing is going to be handed to us.”
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.