If you didn’t attend Purnell Swett’s battle with Lumberton in Pembroke Tuesday night, you missed the antics of a crowd that rivaled Fairmont’s championship game victory over Terry Sanford in the 2010 Shootout. Both schools had energetic student sections, a rarity at the prep level for a sport that takes a backseat to football in most areas.
The Maroon Typhoon, obnoxious as they were, made it difficult for the Rams during timeouts and even had a member escorted away by a security officer for getting too close to Swett’s bench. Ah, the makings of a perfect atmosphere for the first of two scheduled Backyard Brawls.
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6. Red Springs (1-14, 1-4): Head coach Glenn Patterson summed up this season for Red Springs shortly after Friday’s buzzer-beating defeat at South Robeson: “As a coach, if you’re in this long enough, you’re going to go through a rebuilding year. This is a rebuilding year for us.” After a trip to the East Regional Final last season, coach, we’ll forgive you. While Red Springs’ record isn’t satisfying to most Red Devil fans, Patterson is content with his team’s effort-level after every tip. “We’re trying and our guys aren’t quitting. That’s a good sign. We’ll be okay, it’s just a matter of going through some growing pains.” From a coach with more than two decades of sideline experience, Patterson knows what he’s talking about.
5. South Robeson (2-13, 1-4): Remember the team that plays spoiler? The Mustangs picked up their first victory in Three Rivers play last week against Red Springs, benefiting from a hard-to-comprehend ruling in the waning seconds. South Robeson has closed the gap recently against more-talented competition revealing the struggling Mustangs still have a little resiliency on their side.
4. St. Pauls (3-13, 2-3): The Bulldogs have lost three straight games since starting the conference season 2-0 and two of the defeats have come at home. Despite a season-high 24 points from Deion Gilchrist Friday against West Columbus, St. Pauls squandered a 15-point second-half lead to the Vikings and fell two games behind league-leader Fairmont. Following Tuesday’s loss to the Golden Tornadoes, St. Pauls is in a hole that will be tough to climb out of with five games remaining. As talented as St. Pauls’ starting five looks on paper, head coach Travis Lemanki said it succinctly after a home loss to East Columbus: “We have double-digit losses. It’s not like we’re 10-3. We haven’t played very good basketball this season.”
3. Purnell Swett (11-6, 2-3): With consecutive opportunities at center stage, the Rams have fallen into the front row. The second half hasn’t been kind to Swett over the last two games as Hoke and Lumberton have turned tight contests into blowout wins. Lumberton’s athleticism was too much for the Rams to handle Tuesday, especially with Juwan Jones on the bench with foul trouble. To make a run at the postseason, Swett needs to finish at least 5-5 in conference play and perhaps win a game or two in the Southeastern Conference tournament. Still, 11 wins in 17 games is a step in the right direction for Jeremy Sampson’s budding program in Pembroke.
2. Fairmont (12-4, 5-0): The Golden Tornadoes have done nothing but win since a loss the final week of 2011 to Southern Lee and they slide to No. 2? We won’t see another Fairmont-Lumberton clash like we saw in the Robeson County Shootout, back when both teams tinkered with starting lineups and worked on various sets before starting conference play. So theoretically speaking, if both teams played tomorrow on a neutral court, the edge would go to Lumberton and its roster-wide athleticism. It’s unfortunate that the Golden Tornadoes rarely face a challenge in the Three Rivers Conference, because come playoff time, Fairmont would benefit from what being under pressure feels like.
1. Lumberton (12-6, 4-1): Christian McRae for President. OK, not really, but Lumberton’s best player on the wing has taken the Southeastern Conference by storm in recent weeks and Swett was his latest victim Tuesday night. He lit up the Rams for 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting including a 3-of-5 effort from downtown. Equipped with a formidable scorer complemented by a handful of other guards who can perform with the ball in their hands, the rest of the SEC has taken notice to the league’s hottest team — the Pirates.
Reach Staff writer Brad Crawford at 910-272-6119 or at email@example.com