The junior guard had just brought the house down.
Midway through the fourth quarter, as part of a 9-0 Lumberton run, Strother broke loose off a Pinecrest turnover and glided in for a one-handed breakaway slam. Seconds later, Strother, listed as 5-foot-10, pinned a Pinecrest layup off the backboard and snagged it off the glass.
Strother’s showstopping plays served as a pair of exclamation points on the Pirates’ 66-47 home win over the Patriots in opening action of the 4A Southeastern Conference Friday night.
“Coach (Ted) Gaskins said that we have to make a statement (in the conference),” said Strother, who finished with seven points. “Everybody’s talking about Richmond and Hoke, so he said we had to make a statement.”
Aside from a third-quarter lull where Lumberton was held to four points while giving up 16 to the Patriots (5-8), the Pirates (9-5) made a splash in their league opener.
“You always want to start off on a good foot,” Gaskins said. “You can say at least for the week you’re on the top with some of the other teams at the top echelon.”
Lumberton jumped out to a 20-8 first-quarter lead as its defense kept the Patriots at bay and its offense had its way inside the paint, emulating by Dorian Davis powering in a layup in the final seconds.
The Pirates kept the pace in the second quarter, ending the frame on a 10-2 run — highlighted by 3-pointers from Jabrie Bullard and Colby Johnson — to claim a 41-19 command at halftime.
“We came out and played good defense,” Lumberton senior center Josh Smith said. He chipped in six points.
The tables turned in the third. There, the Pirates were held scoreless in the quarter’s final 5:37 as Pinecrest enjoyed an 11-0 run to tighten the count to 45-35.
“I thought we came out flat with no intensity,” Gaskins said. “The game wasn’t over with. Like I told the kids, ‘I liked the way you played the first, second and fourth quarters, but the third quarter, I was disappointed with their effort.
“In the fourth our intensity came up. We were more focused, getting up in the passing lanes.”
Such led to Strother’s breakaway jam that put the Pirates ahead 53-39 at the 5-minute mark. Lumberton, winners of seven of its last eight games, didn’t look back from there.
“It was my first one (dunk) of the season. I was happy,” Strother said.
Christian McRae dropped in 11 fourth-quarter points to finish with a team-high 13. Austin McNeill and Bullard each added 10.
Lady Pirates pull away from Pats
With their leading-scorer Keana McNeill sidelined with a calf injury she suffered Wednesday against South View, Lumberton knew they needed to be especially focused in their SEC opener with Pinecrest.
The Pirates were locked in.
After a slow start, Lumberton rode the momentum of a game-changing 10-0 run in the second half to top Pinecrest 52-36 Friday.
“I was real proud of our total team effort,” Lumberton coach Danny Graham said. “We got our leading scorer Keanna McNeill out and I thought the rest of our players really stepped up.
Lumberton (9-5) initiated its run late in the third with feisty defense that led to breakaway buckets and open looks down low.
“We kind of shut them (Pinecrest) down in the third quarter with our press and man-to-man, so I was real proud of them,” said Graham, whose team doubled-up Pinecrest (7-7) in the third, 14-7.
Aliyah Ratley scored a game-high 13 points while Jaynell Brown netted 10 and Raven Ingram chipped in eight.
Reach Sports Editor Kaleb Roedel at 910-272-6111 or email@example.com