LUMBERTON — Ever since Danny Graham came to Lumberton high school, winning has almost become the norm for his teams.
But even Friday after the clock ticked down in Lumberton’s 51-23 win against Purnell Swett, the 400th of his career, he took it humbly.
“I owe it all to the players because without the players, the coach is no good. The players have to buy in,” he said.
Year after year, they have. By his count, he’s only had one losing season, won seven Robeson County shootouts and led the Pirates (15-8, 6-4) to the county’s last major state championship in 2001.
This year’s team, a younger one than he’s traditionally had, have had little issue keeping the tradition alive. Using the same defensive focus that have driven his past players, the Pirates closed out the regular season by limiting their rivals throughout the game.
The Rams (5-15, 0-10) led were led to three points in the first quarter, one in the third and eight in the fourth, and no player scored more than seven in the game. Lumberton trailed only once, allowing the first points of the game on a layup by Jamee Bird.
Purnell Swett finished the season winless in conference play.
The Pirates rallied behind strong first-half shooting, hitting six 3-pointers in the first two quarters. Mariah Locklear hit four to score 12 points in the half, and Azaya Graham hit two and finished with eight, the duo outscoring the Rams at halftime.
Locklear led the game with 23 points, hitting two more 3-pointers in the second half. Graham finished with 10 and was the only other Pirate to score in double figures.
“We just had to get it. It was his big 400,” Locklear said. “We knew coming in from last night that any team could be beat and even if we’d beat that team before we’d have to beat them tonight.”
Lumberton had numerous points off turnovers and rebounds.
Bird led the Rams with seven points, all in the first half, and Taylor Locklear had five.
Lumberton will continue its season next week in the NCHSAA 4A state playoffs.
Lumberton boys clinch playoff spot
The Lumberton boys basketball team needed three wins in a row this week to make the playoffs.
The Pirates (13-10, 6-4) got the first two early in the week against Pinecrest and Scotland, but rival Purnell Swett didn’t let the third come easily.
The Rams (3-16, 1-9) battled back after trailing by as many as 27 points in the first half, narrowing the deficit to five in the fourth quarter before Lumberton finally put it away for a 77-68 win.
“I told the boys before the game that Swett’s a scrappy crowd, they’re not going to give up, they’re going to give you everything they’ve got,” Lumberton coach Mackie Register said.
Lumberton broke the press with frequency in the first quarter, leading to easy layups for Demetri Sheridan. Will Everette and Darius Floyd took advantage of hot shooting and the Pirates ended the quarter head 28-9, then kept it going to expand the lead as high as 27 points.
Late in the half, a core that included Kendrick Purdie, Jordan Chavis and Tyler Maynor found a spark, narrowing the led to 44-30 by halftime. Anthony Williamson then found his stride in the second half, scoring 17 of his team-high 20 points after the break.
The lead got down to six by the end of the third quarter.
“These guys have some heart,” Swett coach Jeremy Sampson said. “They didn’t give up, they didn’t quit. They battled and got us back into it.”
Williamson was one of four Rams that finished in double figures. Purdie added 14, Maynor had 13 and Chavis had 11.
Sheridan led Lumberton with 18 points and was helped by Travis Suggs with 13 and Darius Floyd with 11.
Scott Schlaufman can be reached at 910-272-6111 or on Twitter @ScottySchlauf.
Lumberton 77, Purnell Swett 68
Purnell Swett 9 21 18 20 — 68
Lumberton 28 16 10 23 — 77
PURNELL SWETT — Tyler Maynor 13, Kendrick Purdie 14, Anthony Williamson 20, Jordan Chavis 11, Brooks 6, Lowery 2, J. Locklear 2.
LUMBERTON — Demetri Sheridan 18, Travis Suggs 13, Sampson 5, Darius Floyd 11, Grissett 4, Everette 6, Gaddy 8, Cromartie 2, McCollom 2, Edwards 4, Brock 4.
3-pointers — PS: Williamson 3, Maynor 1, Purdie 1, Chavis 1, Brooks 1; L: Floyd 2, Everette 1, Sampson 1.
Technical fouls: PS: Maynor; L: Sampson.
Fouled out: PS: Maynor; L: Sampson.
Records — Purnell Swett 3-16, 1-9; Lumberton 13-10, 6-4.
Lumberton 51, Purnell Swett 23
Purnell Swett 3 11 1 8 — 23
Lumberton 10 17 17 7 — 51
PURNELL SWETT — Bird 7, T. Locklear 5, Hunt 4, B. Locklear 3, Lowry 3, E. Locklear 1.
LUMBERTON — Mariah Locklear 23, Asaya Graham 10, McBride 9, Bullard 4, Andrews 3, Faulkner 2.
3-pointers — PS: T. Locklear 1, Lowry 1, B. Locklear 1, Bird 1; L: Locklear 6, Graham 2.
Records — Purnell Swett 5-15, 0-10; Lumberton 15-8, 6-4.