ROCKINGHAM — There was a brief moment when the Richmond Senior-Union Pines contest looked like it might have a buzzer-beating finish.
After Richmond’s Xavier Davis missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Union Pines’ Malik Crawford grabbed the rebound and sprinted up court. Unlike when Cheraw’s Zac Sellers took the ball all way to the basket for a game-winning layup as time expired in the Raiders’ season-opening loss. Crawford stopped at the top of the key and attempted a go-ahead 3-pointer.
Crawford’s shot missed the rim and bounced off the backboard into the hands of Richmond’s Sidney Neely with just over 7 seconds remaining in the contest.
“I told them during the timeout to stay between the ball and the basket,” Richmond coach David Laton said. “Nobody goes all the way to basket.”
The Raiders were able to bleed off the remaining time on the clock to pull out a 59-58 victory Friday night.
The win didn’t come easy as Richmond needed three plays from T.J. Watkins, who only scored three points on the night, in the final 31.4 seconds of the game to seal the win.
The first came when Watkins hit 1 of 2 free throws to put the Raiders ahead for good at 59-58.
After missing on the front end of a 1-and-1, Watkins was able to knock the ball out of bounds, draining just over a second off the clock, leaving Union Pines with 1.7 seconds remaining the length of the court to go.
The last play from Watkins came on the inbounds throw, when he intercepted it to preserve the victory.
Richmond (2-1) was paced by Greg Patterson and Trey Pettigrew, who scored 19 and 13 points, respectively. Union Pines (3-2) was led by Armani McCoy’s game-high 20 points. Darin Carlyle chipped in with 12 for the Vikings.
After a blistering pace in the first half with his new up-tempo offense, Laton elected to slow things down in the final 16 minutes. Both teams combined to score 44 points in the second half after netting 73 in the opening two quarters.
“I re-visited an old friend at the start of the half,” Laton said. “I went back to the old Temple (2-3) zone. I thought the way the game was going we needed to change things up a bit. I thought it gave them problems.”
Laton added while the game changed complexion from a 100-yard dash to a snail’s pace, his team was still trying to break out and run when given the opportunity.
Richmond will hit the road to play for the first time away from Raider Gymnasium 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Cheraw.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.