LUMBERTON — By now, Montrae Strother, the Lumberton boys basketball team’s tone-setter and leading-scorer, has gotten used to hearing his name chanted in a clap-filled unison — “Mon-trae Stroth-er” — by the Lumberton High School student section, the Maroon Typhoon.
Friday night, the cascading cheer rose to deafening levels.
With his team trailing by one, Strother crossed to his left at the free throw line, side-stepped a defender and lofted a running floater through the net with 1.7 seconds left, lifting Lumberton to a 68-67 win over Dillon in the semifinals of the Robeson County Shootout Friday night at Lumberton High.
After Dillon’s ensuing half-court heave slapped against the backboard, Strother was engulfed by his teammates and coaches, celebrating a win that moves the Pirates into the Shootout finals. The Pirates (3-5) will face off against West Bladen, which defeated St. Pauls in the semis, tonight at 7:30 p.m. at UNC-Pembroke.
“It felt good, game-winner,” Strother said before describing his thought-process on the game-winning shot. “I was trying to get it timed to go down to like five seconds so I could get a shot off … We ran a play called ‘Clear.’ I got open, I hit the floater.”
Lumberton rallied back from a six-point deficit in the last 1:45, keyed by Strother who scored nine of his team’s final 11 points. Austin Revels and Jez Deese chipped in a free throw apiece down the stretch.
With a chance to go up three, Dillon (5-2) missed two free throws with 21.8 seconds left, giving Lumberton the ball while facing a slim 67-66 deficit.
There was no secret who the ball was going to for the game’s final play.
“When you got a chance to win the game, you put the ball in your best player’s hand,” Lumberton head coach Mackie Register said of Strother, who finished with a game-high 23 points. “And he stepped up. He’s a senior, and he showed his years of experience.”
The Pirates, however, had a gut-check early in the first half as Dillon caught fire with a 9-0 run to finish out the first quarter with a 20-18 lead. Breon Page led the Wildcats with a team-high 16 points, including three 3-pointers. Dillon kept the pace early in the second, extending its run to 13-0, while using suffocating defensive pressure that had Lumberton playing hot-potato with the ball.
A Colby Johnson 3-pointer at 2:56 eventually gave Lumberton the lead, 31-29, which it built off of for a 36-32 edge at the half.
“Man, I tell you what that was a battle right there,” Register said. “Dillon was giving us everything they had and we were giving them everything we had. I don’t think anything was left out on the floor. Our guys played their hearts out.”
The two teams continued to trade scoring jabs in the second half. Coming to life for the Pirates were post players Demetri Sheridan and Brian Phillips who netted 12 points apiece. But Dillon retook the lead with an 8-0 run to end the third.
In the fourth quarter, however, it was The Strother Show.
After Revels and Sheridan pumped in layups in the frame’s opening minute, it was Strother who took the scoring reins from there. He initiated his flurry with an acrobatic layup as he was fouled for an old fashioned 3-point play at 4:14. Four minutes later, he dribbled the clock just under five seconds, just as he planned, and sent his team into the Shootout championship game with a flick of the wrist.
“We’ve been practicing harder and started taking it serious,” Strother said of his team. “And now, we’re winning.”
Lady Pirates top Fairmont on way to finals
Just like last year, the Lumberton girls basketball team appears untouchable in the Robeson County Shootout.
Led by Aliyah Ratley’s game-high 19 points, the Lady Pirates cruised past Fairmont, 62-43, on its way back to the Shootout finals to defend their title. Lumberton defeated St. Pauls in last year’s finals.
“It’s always good to get there, we try to get there every year,” said Lumberton head coach Danny Graham, whose Lady Pirates (5-3) will face undefeated West Bladen (6-0) at 6 p.m. tonight at UNCP.
Keanna McNeill added 14 points while Azaya Graham chipped in 11, connecting on two and three 3-pointers, respectively.
Na’Jewel Ingram led Fairmont with 17 points while Anasia Evans added 15.
Reach Sports editor Kaleb Roedel at 910-272-6111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lumberton 62, Fairmont 43
LHS 19 18 17 8 — 62; FMT 11 6 8 18 — 43
Lumberton — Aliyah Ratley 19, Keanna McNeill 14, Azaya Graham 11, Ingram 7, M. Locklear 3, S. Locklear 2, Singeltary 2, McBryde 2, McCoy 1, Little 1.
Fairmont — Na’Jewel Ingram 17, Anasia Evans 15, Smith 4, McKormick 3, Thorndyke 2, Addison 2.
3-Point Goals — LHS: Graham 3, McNeill 2, M. Locklear.
Records — Lumberton 5-3, Fairmont 4-4.
Lumberton 68, Dillon 67
LHS 18 18 13 19 — 68; DHS 20 12 20 15 — 67
Lumberton — Montrae Strother 23, Brian Phillips 12, Demetri Sheridan 12, Revels 8, Johnson 6, Sampson 6, Suggs 2, Deese 1.
Dillon — Page 16, Fenton 13, Caulder 9, Bethea 7, Cabbagestalk 5, Blue 4, McCall 4, Williams 2, Salmon 2.
3-Point Goals — LHS: Johnson 2, Sampson 2, Revels. DHS: Page 3, Bethea, Cabbagestalk.
Records — Lumberton 3-5, Dillon 5-2.