The Pirates and Rams are off to 1-1 starts in the Southeastern Conference while the Bulldogs and Golden Tornadoes are tied atop the Three Rivers just two games in. Three players — legit scorers — have separated themselves in Robeson County’s Player of the Year race and here’s your hint: The poll’s top three teams each have a representative.
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6. South Robeson (1-11, 0-2): Slow starts have frustrated the Mustangs this season leading to 11 losses in 12 games. South Robeson will be one of those teams lurking in the shadows the rest of the way looking for a way to disrupt some of the more talented squads in the Three Rivers Conference. The Mustangs still have four other chances to play spoiler against Red Springs, Fairmont and St. Pauls.
5. Red Springs (1-11, 1-1): Tonight’s battle against Purnell Swett is huge for Glenn Patterson’s young ballclub. The Red Devils are coming off an impressive win in their Three Rivers home opener last week, downing an East Columbus squad that usually finishes in the top-half of the standings each season. If they could string together back-to-back victories, the second coming against a county rival, the Red Devils’ confidence level will soar. Quinn Lowery remains Red Springs’ low-post threat while Jameson Baker’s game-high 20 against the Gators showed he’s ready to be one of the leaders Patterson keeps referring to this season.
4. St. Pauls (3-10, 2-0): Travis Lemanski told Bulldogs fans in December that St. Pauls would be a force when the conference season began. Two games in, he’s right. Tuesday’s home loss to West Bladen was a minor non-conference hiccup in what should be a race to the finish with Fairmont in the Three Rivers. Each player in St. Pauls starting lineup has the ability to score, including a talented big man — a hot commodity at this point in the season. If St. Pauls stays injury free and Antonio Henderson continues his progression as the county’s best individual passer, the Bulldogs will be there at the end.
3. Purnell Swett (9-4, 1-1): After last week’s emotional win over Scotland in the Southeastern Conference opener, the Rams couldn’t muster enough offense in the second half of Tuesday’s loss at Richmond. Juwan Jones has been Swett’s trigger, but he needs help. James Chavis hit two clutch 3-pointers against the Scots and the Rams’ frontcourt is starting to play with consistency. That needs to continue. As of now, the Rams will go as far as Jones takes them, I’m just not sure the talented point guard can shoulder the load the rest of the season without any help.
2. Lumberton (8-6, 1-1): The Pirates move up this week because of a … loss? Like the Rams, Lumberton won its SEC opener last week against Pinecrest but fell on the road Tuesday night. Like the Rams, the Pirates lost to a squad that is highly-talented and ranked in the 4A polls. But unlike Swett, which only has one player who can consistently score, the Pirates are a more well-rounded unit at this point and get the edge if these two went head-to-head — they will on Jan. 24 in Pembroke. Rebounding is Lumberton’s biggest nemesis at this point and was a contributing factor in Tuesday’s heartbreaker at Hoke.
1. Fairmont (9-4, 2-0): The Golden Tornadoes are rebounding better and being more active on defense, both ingredients to another Three Rivers Conference championship. It’s still early, but Draquine Floyd is one of the conference’s top low-post threats and he’ll have a shot at another big game Friday against Red Springs. Jarrod Neal is getting more comfortable as Fairmont’s point guard and Charlton Townsend is having more success on the low block. Coach Michael Baker doesn’t have the Golden Tornadoes playing at last season’s caliber yet, but his team is improving and that’s of utmost importance as we approach February.
Reach Staff writer Brad Crawford at 910-272-6119 or at firstname.lastname@example.org