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CRAWFORD: Red Springs emerges as Three Rivers threat

By Brad Crawford bcrawford@civitasmedia.com

2 months 20 days 8 hours ago |8 Views | | | Email | Print

Fairmont.


Red Springs’ boys basketball team doesn’t need an elixir to determine which foe stands in the way of its Three Rivers Conference title bid this season.


It’s been a Jekyll and Hyde of sorts for the Red Devils and the three-time defending league champion Golden Tornadoes, who remain all alone at the top, dominating the cross-town rivalry in recent years with 11 consecutive wins.


The seismic gap has left the Red Devils sick.


“Attitude and emotion has really hurt us (against Fairmont),” said junior forward James Chavis. “Everybody lets their feelings get the best of them.”


Added sixth man Jaqwan McLaurin: “We can beat them, but we have to believe we can. It’s mental.”


A plethora of turnovers and first-half implosions have resulted in many double-digit losses during the stretch and has spilled over into games against other teams. Three seasons removed from an appearance in the East Regional final, Red Springs (12-5, 7-1) is off to its best start in more than a decade with 12 victories in its last 14 games, one win better than the mark set by the 2010 squad through 17 games.


It’s taken two years — and 35 losses — to get back to respectability says coach Glenn Patterson, whose team is one game back of Fairmont with six games left in the regular season.


Truthfully, he says, the Red Devils were one player away from a turnaround.


“I’ve told our guys all along that the last couple of years we haven’t had a point guard,” Patterson said. “We had to put our best forward in Quinn (Lowery) at the point. When Jared (Foster) came to our school, we were able to go back to doing the things we were accustomed to doing. We had a floor general.”


Predicated on points in transition and back-door cuts to the rim, Red Springs has returned to prominence with a 10-man rotation free of all-county standouts and noticeable scorers. Foster’s no doubt been a welcomed addition after transferring from Overhills with a team-best 16.6 points per game, but the Red Devils’ complimentary players have excelled at understanding their roles within the team.


Seniors Markeiss Blue and Shamar McLaurin are dependable off the bench as high-energy guys while Jamison Baker, Red Springs’ main offensive threat as a junior, has adjusted well to his switch as a perimeter option to make room for Foster.


“I knew the talent was there, but getting it to mesh together was the hard part,” Patterson said. “People had to learn their roles. I told them that once we started playing together as a team and not individuals, we’d start seeing the results.”


Six-foot-6 freshman Tavion Atkinson, one of the state’s top player in the Class of 2017, is continuing to develop as a low-post threat and has given the Red Devils a much-needed rebounding edge.


There’s no selfishness this season, an element that’s plagued Red Springs since 2010.


“We’ve been through a lot as far as players learning their roles, having to discipline people and kids have stepped up,” Patterson said. “I’ve challenged Tavion game in and game out to play basketball like he knows how to play. I think Tavion goes through the motions a lot, but he can be more aggressive. I’ve got to stay on him and keep encouraging him as we go.”


A recent excursion for a night of bowling on Martin Luther King Day brought the Red Devils closer together. Red Springs responded with consecutive blowout victories over St. Pauls and South Robeson the same week.


Call it what you want, but Red Springs’ 58-54 win at Lumberton on Jan. 8 meant a great deal to a locker room intent on getting back to the top of Robeson County basketball. Combine that with a 15-point victory over the Pirates before the Shootout and the Red Devils are right in the thick of area supremacy.


This isn’t the same team that started the season 0-3.


“Discipline and patience has helped get better on offense,” Foster said. “I think we feel more comfortable out there. Our bench has helped out a lot.”


Call it what you want, but Red Springs’ 58-54 win at Lumberton on Jan. 8 meant a great deal to a locker room intent on getting back to the top of Robeson County basketball. Combine that with a 15-point victory over the Pirates before the Shootout and the Red Devils are right in the thick of area supremacy.


There’s still Fairmont to deal with however, the only team that’s beaten Red Springs since the first week of December. The Red Devils battle the Golden Tornadoes on Feb. 4 needing a win to draw even in the Three Rivers.


Fairmont (13-4, 8-0) holds the tiebreaker for playoff seeding purposes since it beat Red Springs in the first round of the Shootout.


“The team we’re chasing is Fairmont and I think we’re very capable of beating them,” Patterson said. “We can’t let anybody come in and steal a win from us. I do believe somebody’s going to knock them off other than us, we just need to keep winning and hope that someone helps us out.


Reach Brad Crawford at 910-272-6111 or on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.

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