Strother has done the heavy lifting on both sides of the ball in the early going and has been the squad’s only consistent jump shooter on a team mired by inconsistency at 4-7.
But after a handful of spirited practices during the holiday break, it looked as if things finally came together for the Pirates during Friday’s 73-60 victory at St. Pauls as two formidable scoring options in the paint continued their recent hot play.
“I feel like our entire team has been getting better with more games and more practices,” Lumberton coach Mackie Register said after the Pirates’ fifth straight win over the Bulldogs. “We haven’t hit our stride but I think we’re getting there. Tonight is a good start toward something bigger.”
Lumberton’s Demetri Sheridan and Jez Deese combined for a monster 34-point, 23-rebound outing to lead a dominating performance underneath the basket. The Pirates never trailed, led by as many as 19 and hit 5-of-6 3-pointers in the second half, a first this season.
Sheridan poured in 16 of his team-high 20 points in the first as Lumberton built a 12-point cushion at intermission. A 6-0 run to end the second quarter was capped by Strother’s reverse layup along the left baseline. Strother finished with 13 points, three assists and three blocks including a length-of-the-floor swat of a layup attempt midway through the fourth.
“Demetri is turning into that second scorer for us, something we need,” Register said. “He plays with a lot of heart. If he was 6-foot-6, we wouldn’t be talking about a football career in college. He’s a beast on the floor.”
In a previous meeting with the Bulldogs this season, the Pirates trailed by double digits in the second half before pushing out a victory in the final minute. That wasn’t the case in an impressive performance — perhaps Lumberton’s most complete game of the season — Friday night.
“It’s certainly a good win because St. Pauls was undefeated at home,” Register said. “We kind of pumped that up and used it as motivation all week.”
Deion Gilchrist kept the Bulldogs within striking distance in the second quarter, pulling his team to within five at one point with consecutive 3-pointers from well beyond the line. Gilchrist finished with 20 but it wasn’t enough as St. Pauls dropped to 5-5, its seventh loss in eight tries against the Pirates under head coach Travis Lemanski.
It was the Bulldogs’ first game since a win over Dillon for third place in the Robeson County Shootout three weeks ago.
“Our defense, once again, was too porous,” Lemanski said. “When we tried to pressure, they threw over the top and beat us. All in all, I thought it was a good performance by them and mediocre one by us. It was by far the best game Lumberton has played in awhile against us.”
Lemanski was impressed with Sheridan’s motor and strength at the power forward position despite undersized at under six feet.
“It doesn’t always matter how tall you are at this level,” Lemanski said. “When you give more effort and continuously jump for rebounds, you’re going to be a pretty darn good player. I’m trying to get some of our guys to play like that.”
Lady Pirates dominate early in rout
On the strength of a 12-0 run midway through the second quarter, Lumberton’s girls routed St. Pauls, 51-29, on the road in the first of two final tuneups before the start of Southeastern Conference play.
Raven Ingram netted 15 for Lumberton while Aliyah Ratley added 10 points and six steals as the Lady Pirates never looked back after outscoring St. Pauls 18-2 in the second stanza. Lumberton travels to Fairmont Tuesday before opening the SEC against Pinecrest on Friday.