RED SPRINGS — After a lopsided loss Friday night to Seventy-First, Lumberton stayed in the game for all 32 minutes against undefeated Richmond after a strong start.
But the Pirates couldn’t make a key shot down the stretch, and the Raiders earned a 51-45 win in the MLK Classic at Red Springs.
“We missed nine shots right there at the end, and a lot of them were bunny layups,” Lumberton coach Bryant Edwards said. “Cobe (Oxendine) was 0-for-5 his last five shots of the game. This is a team that’s all new to different things, so every game’s a learning experience right now.”
After Angel Bowie hit a layup with 46 seconds left to pull Lumberton (10-4) to a 47-45 deficit; the Pirates’ four possessions after that basket resulted in a travel, two missed layups and a missed 3-point attempt. Richmond’s Javion Drake hit two free throws with 40 seconds left for a 49-45 lead, then Xavier Collazo added two more with six seconds to go to establish the final six-point margin.
Richmond (14-0) took the lead with a third-quarter run. The game was tied 23-23 at halftime and Lumberton led 26-25 early in the third before a 9-2 Richmond run, including three baskets by Drake, for a 34-28 lead with 4:20 left in the third. John Dawkins also had a third-quarter basket and Collazo had two for the Raiders over the rest of the period, but Lumberton countered with five points from Angel Bowie and an Oxendine triple in the final minute of the period; Richmond led 39-36 going to the fourth.
“(Richmond) made some big shots; their role players that were averaging less than five points a game, they made some shots towards the end,” Edwards said. “Guys that we’re OK shooting the basketball, they’re shooting less than 30% from the floor, they made tough shots, they made shots when they needed to make them.
Raiders standout guard Paul McNeil was held to eight points through three quarters, but the sophomore hit a 3-pointer on the first possession of the fourth and his traditional 3-point play gave the Raiders a 47-40 lead with 5:08 to go. As Richmond didn’t make a field goal the rest of the game, the Pirates inched closer with an Oxendine free throw and a J.B. Brockington layup, but missed shots wouldn’t allow the Pirates to get any closer than a four-point margin in the stretch run.
Lumberton took a 12-2 lead over the first four minutes, with six points each by Oxendine and Tre Lewis in the run. The Pirates led 14-6 at the end of the first quarter and kept Richmond at an arm’s length for most of the second quarter, leading 22-14 with 2:42 left in the half behind eight first-half points by Brockington.
“The past three games we’ve just come out of the gate very sluggish, and we were not the aggressors,” Edwards said. “So the whole pregame today, that was the main focus was the first three minutes of the game; we want to start the first three minutes with our pace and how we want to play. And we did — we came out the gate and played hard, and we got six offensive rebounds the first four minutes.”
Richmond finished the half on a 9-1 run, with 3-pointers from McNeil, Zion Baldwin and Drake; the latter tied the game at 23-23 at the halftime buzzer.
Brockington scored 12 points, tied for the Pirates’ team high, and eight assists, one night after he was held to one point by Seventy-First.
“It starts on the defensive end for him,” Edwards said. “(Friday) he was just focused on the offensive side of the basketball. When he’s not focused defensively, he overthinks everything on the offensive end, he’s very passive, he’s not aggressive. Going into tonight I assigned him to (McNeil). I said, ‘I want you to focus on defending him; I want you to focus on making every shot tough for him.’ And he did, he gave him fits.”
Bowie also scored 12 points with 14 rebounds and Oxendine had 10 points for Lumberton; Lewis had eight points with 18 rebounds. Drake and McNeil each had 14 points and Dakota Chavis had 12 for Richmond.
Lumberton will now look to regroup ahead of the resumption of conference play when it hosts Cape Fear Friday, coming off the first back-to-back losses in Edwards’ three-year tenure.
“I do think this team has a lot of basketball left to show; I do think this team can go on a run and I do think this team can still win a lot of games,” Edwards said. “Our guys, their spirits are kind of down right now; I’m going to give them two days off and then we’ll come back Tuesday and lock in and get ready for a really good stretch of conference basketball coming up.”
Chris Stiles can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] You can follow him on Twitter at @StilesOnSports.