SOUTHERN PINES — Even in the darkest of clouds, there is a silver lining.
After watching her team fall for the third time this season to Pinecrest, Richmond Senior coach Victoria DeFrate received some good news — Purnell Swett upset Hoke County, 38-32. The Rams overcame a 17-point halftime deficit in the win.
“That is great,” DeFrate said after hearing the score.
With the Rams’ victory, the Raiders maintain a one-game advantage over the Bucks heading into the regular season finale Friday night. Richmond will travel to Scotland, while Hoke will play host to Pinecrest.
A win or a Bucks’ loss would give the Raiders the fourth seed in next week’s Southeastern Conference tournament and a spot in the state 4A playoffs. However, a Richmond loss and a Hoke victory would give the Bucks the tiebreaker.
Against the Patriots, the Raiders nearly pulled off the minor upset to clinch their playoff spot. Richmond led 15-14 at the end of the first quarter behind the play of Jade Evans, who scored seven points in the frame.
Pinecrest (13-8, 6-3) threatened to break the contest open in the second by going on a 13-2 run to take a 27-17 advantage. The Raiders recovered to slice the deficit to four at halftime as Shaquail Wall and Kivana Keane connected on 3-point field goals in the final 91 seconds.
Richmond (5-15, 3-6) managed to pull within one in the second half on two occasions, but were unable to take the lead.
“This is the best we have played in a while,” DeFrate said. “We hung with them. The difference was they have something like 10 seniors, while we have three.
“When it comes down to the end of the game it was experience that helped them win. Our hearts are beating like 100 miles per hour, while they were totally calm because they have been through this hundreds of times.”
Richmond will return to action 6 p.m. tonight when it plays host to Flora Macdonald on Senior Night.
In other action, Scotland earned the top seed in the SEC tournament with its 52-50 win over Lumberton. The Fighting Scots swept the season series from the Pirates. Lumberton will be the No. 2 seed, while Pinecrest will finish third.
— 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.