Monday, 20 January 2020 21:41

McLaughlin's 4th-quarter charge helps Raiders past Red Springs in MLK Classic

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PJ McLaughlin (15) lays in the tying bucket off a steal in the fourth quarter, where he scored 10 points to help the Raiders to a win Monday. PJ McLaughlin (15) lays in the tying bucket off a steal in the fourth quarter, where he scored 10 points to help the Raiders to a win Monday. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

RED SPRINGS — The Richmond Senior High School boys’ basketball team rebounded and returned to the win column during Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Classic at Red Springs High School.

Just a few days after dropping a conference game at rival Scotland High School, the Raiders capped the daylong tournament against the host Red Devils with an exciting 56-51 win, which came down to the final seconds.

In what proved to be a tightly-contested ball game that saw neither team gain more than six-point lead throughout the four quarters, it would be junior point guard PJ McLaughlin who lifted the Raiders to their 12th win of the season in the fourth quarter.

Entering the final stanza with just two points, McLaughlin locked in and scored 10 points in the fourth, but none more important than the two he scored on a steal and a layup to tie the game at 49 points with 1:15 remaining.

All 10 of his points were scored in the final 2:38 of regulation, starting with a pair of made free throws to make it a 47-43 deficit. Red Springs used a basket on the next possession from Jowuan Baker to retake a six-point lead, Richmond’s largest deficit at any point.

But the turning point was on Richmond’s next rush down the court when McLaughlin splashed home a three-pointer from the top of the key with 2:05 remaining. Trailing by three, McLaughlin forced a turnover seconds later and was fouled, sending him to the line for a one-and-one opportunity.

He drained the front end of it, but missed the second. As the Red Devils came back down the court facing Richmond’s press defense, McLaughlin again made a steal, this time taking it the distance for two more points tie the game.

Red Springs called a timeout, and on the ensuing inbound against full-court pressure by Richmond, the Red Devils turned the ball over again, this time to junior forward Nygie Stroman. 

After a series of passes, Stroman was found by McLaughlin on a dish underneath for two easy points and made the and-one foul shot, giving Richmond a 52-49 lead , one it wouldn’t surrender with 55 seconds remaining.

Corell Love pulled Red Springs within a point on the next series, getting the crowd up with a baseline dunk. Richmond head coach Donald Pettigrew called a timeout, and on the next possession, junior Caleb Hood was fouled and sent to the line in the double bonus.

Hood made one of the free throws with 39 seconds left, and after a failed run by the Red Devils that saw Love miss a shot under the rim with 20 seconds left, McLaughlin was fouled by Baker and drained both shots with 12 ticks on the clock.

With the home team trailing 55-51, Jordan Ferguson threw up a desperation three-pointer that was no good. Dylan Lewis collected the rebound and was fouled with three second left, and the junior wing iced the non-conference win by making one of the two free throws.

“The boys have been poised all year,” Pettigrew said after the game. “No matter how it gets, there’s going to be ups and downs. And the guys handled it well, especially PJ who got into foul trouble in the third quarter.

“Other guys stepped up today, like Dylan and Caleb,” he added. “We play better when Dylan hits threes and Caleb is aggressive under the basket. We rebounded a lot better and we picked it up defensively in the fourth quarter with a lot of steals.”

Pettigrew added that “it’s hard to get varsity wins” and that he’ll “take this win on the road against a tough team.”

Hood finished as the team’s leading scorer with 15 points, muscling his way under the basket for a series of field goals and free throw opportunities.

“I’ve had some low scoring games lately and I wanted to come out aggressive,” Hood said of his performance. “I had a lot of energy and was in a good mood, and I think that helped me out a little bit.”

Lewis got the nod in the starting lineup as senior shooting guard Quamir Sivels was sidelined with a nagging foot injury. He proved to be a big help from beyond the arc, scoring a team-high four three-pointers and a free throw for 13 points, a season-high for him.

McLaughlin entered the night averaging 7.6 points per game and nearly doubled that with his 12 points. He scored a triple and a layup in the fourth, but was most effective from the free throw line, which saw him go 5-for-6 in the fourth and 7-for-8 overall.

“I saw the minutes were going down on the clock and I told the guys we had to come on and pick it up,” McLaughlin said of his fourth-quarter surge. “We knew we could push it on offense and makes stops on defense.

“When I made that three-pointer, I knew it was go-time then,” he smiled. “We just had to get over the hump and that fourth quarter provided a spark for us. We really needed this win.”

Hood scored 11 of his 15 points in the first half, while Lewis netted six points on two triples in the first two quarters. He ended the night with two more three-balls in the second half, plus the game’s final point on his free throw.

Stroman chipped in 10 points in the game, making him the fourth Raider to reach double digits. A lone three-pointer in the first half led to seven points in the second half for the power forward.

The victory was just Richmond’s second win in its last five games, and Pettigrew hopes the six-point win will help the Raiders swing the momentum in their favor as the second round of Sandhills Athletic Conference is set to begin on Friday.

“We need to get out there against them and be aggressive,” Pettigrew said of playing Purnell Swett High School next. “It’ll be a good challenge for Jarvis Tillman as he’s one of the better defenders in the conference.

“It’ll be a good matchup and should be a lot of fun to watch, especially against Xavier Jones,” he closed.

Richmond (12-5, 5-2 SAC) will travel to Purnell Swett on Friday to start the second half of conference play. 

The Raiders defeated the Rams 61-34 on Dec. 5, and will look to complete the season series sweep. Purnell Swett’s Xavier Jones is averaging an SAC-best 27.3 points per game, and will be matched up with Tillman. Jones scored 30 points and recorded 31 rebounds in Purnell Swett’s win over Heide Trask High School on Monday. 

Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in Pembroke.

Kyle Pillar

Sports Editor. IUP communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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