RAEFORD — Tarique Thompson garners most of the attention on and off the court, but Hoke County is far from a one-man team.
KeShawn Shaw-Willis made sure Richmond Senior understood that in the Southeastern Conference tournament final Friday night. Shaw-Willis scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half, including back-to-back 3-point field goals to spark a decisive second-quarter run to lead the Bucks to a 78-60 victory over the Raiders.
“He’s been doing it all year,” Hoke coach Quame Patterson said about Shaw-Willis. “He’s our second-leading scorer and he does so many things for us. Tarique and KeShawn are the best duo because Tarique will pass the ball out if he is double-teamed.”
Richmond (18-8) trailed 20-18 after Sidney Neely hit a layup in the opening moments of the second quarter. Then Shaw-Willis took over, draining a 3-pointer from the right wing. Josh Calhoun responded with a runner in the lane for the Raiders, but Shaw-Willis connected on another 3 as the Bucks pushed their advantage to six.
“The second quarter was big for them,” Richmond coach David Laton said. “They made some big shots, especially 3-point shots. They’re an excellent basketball team.”
Rashad Parker put an exclamation point on the first half with a follow-dunk to stretch Hoke’s lead to 42-24 at the break.
“The score doesn’t indicate how close the game was,” Patterson said. “I had to keep looking up at the scoreboard to make sure it was right. They’re a good team and it was good for us to face a team like that before the playoffs.”
The Raiders attempted to rally in the second half, pulling within 10 on four occasions. The last came with 7:05 remaining in the contest on Xavier Davis’ 3-pointer.
“I thought we played much better in the third and fourth quarters,” Laton said. “We were forced to starting gambling more in the fourth because we dug ourselves such a big hole in the first half.”
Thompson finished with a game-high 25 points for Hoke (24-2). Calhoun led Richmond with 17 points, while Shydamion Ellerbe added 13.
Hoke will be the conference’s No. 1 seed when the North Carolina High School Athletic Association releases the 4A playoffs brackets this afternoon. Richmond will earn the second seed. Both teams will be placed in the East Region’s East bracket. Pinecrest and Lumberton, the SEC’s third- and fourth-place finishers, are slated for the East Region’s Mideast bracket.
Early bracket predictions have Southeast Raleigh visiting Richmond, East Wake at Hoke, Lumberton traveling to Apex and Pinecrest at Leesville Road.
“Obviously we had a very good year so far and we want to build on that,” Laton said. “We are looking forward to next week.”
— 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.