After an 0-4 start to the season, Strother and the Lumberton boys basketball team were winless no more. The Pirates, playing from behind until the final two minutes of the ballgame, overcame a 10-point second-half deficit to squeeze by St. Pauls, 58-55, Wednesday night at Lumberton High School.
Strother, who was held scoreless in the first half, came to life in the second stanza to net a team-high 15 points. He buried four straight free throws in the final minute to help ice Lumberton’s first victory of the season.
“We just wanted that first win,” Strother, a senior guard, said. “It feels good. Now everybody in the locker room knows how it feels to win. We got to be hungry.”
A trait Lumberton (1-4) lacked in the first half. And St. Pauls (3-2) took advantage.
Led by arguably the best backcourt in the county in Deion Gilchrist and Malik Livingston, the Bulldogs pushed the ball up the court at breakneck speed to the tune of a 14-4 lead with 1:54 left in the first. Livingston scored a game-high 21 points while Gilchrist had 18.
But the Pirates, who were ice cold from the perimeter, went to work inside and muscled together a 12-3 run to take their first lead, 17-16, at 4:32 in the second. Post players Demetri Sheridan (13 points), Brian Phillips (8) and Jermaine Williams (6) shouldered the scoring, highlighted by Sheridan flipping a layup over his shoulder as he was fouled and came crashing to the hardwood.
St. Pauls, however, countered with a 9-0 run through the final four minutes of the half — capped by consecutive put-backs from Javon Crawford, who had 10 points — to hold a 25-17 halftime lead.
“We came out flat,” said Lumberton head coach Mackie Register, whose team was fresh off a 52-point loss to Seventy-First on Tuesday. “We didn’t get after it defensively until about the third quarter. Most of the second half I decided to go mostly with an all defensive team. We put some pressure on them finally and got us some easy buckets.”
Flexing their full-court press, the Pirates came out re-energized and frazzled the Bulldogs in the third, forcing ill-advised passes and ball-stopping traps. Meanwhile on offense, Lumberton
allowed Strother, the team’s leading-scorer at 18 points per game, to settle in by setting picks and freeing space for the senior guard.
“We made sure he got in the flow of the offense a little better,” Register said. “(St. Pauls) did a great job on him defensively. That’s where we got to pick it up, somebody else has to step up and score when they put a Box-and-1 on him.”
Providing a significant lift with one flick of the wrist was Justice Sampson, who sunk a 3-pointer to bring it to 39-33 with 1:04 left in the frame. St. Pauls struggled to get the ball past half court in the quarter’s final minute, leaving the ball back in the hands of Strother who marched in two layups to cut the gap to 39-37 heading into the fourth.
“At halftime I just told (my teammates) to set me more screens so I can get the ball. Help me get the ball,” Strother said.
Lumberton eventually knotted it at 50-all with two minutes remaining, but St. Pauls quickly broke the tie on a 3-point play from Gilchrist at 1:50 to go up 53-50. The Bulldogs were outscored 8-2 the rest of the way. With St. Pauls down 56-53, Gilchrist got a good look at a corner 3-point attempt with 10 ticks left, but Phillips stretched in for a block to stymie the game-tying attempt.
“We kind of reverted to what we did last year — lead the whole game and then when the pressure gets a little intensified, we get a little shell-shocked,” St. Pauls coach Travis Lemanski, whose Bulldogs fell to Lumberton in overtime twice last season. “We just didn’t make a lot of good decisions down the stretch either. We’re getting better but our basketball savvy, although it’s improved a lot, is still not where it needs to be.”
Coach Register can say the same, but he’s undoubtedly relieved to finally chalk one in the win column.
“It almost feels like a weight came off our shoulders, getting that first win,” he said. “Hopefully with that first win we can get on a little roll heading into conference.”
Lumberton girls rout St. Pauls
Azaya Graham buried three 3-pointers on her way to a game-high 15 points, leading the Lumberton girls basketball team to a 64-21 rout of St. Pauls.
Lumberton (3-2) kept St. Pauls off the scoreboard for the first four minutes en route to building a 15-4 first-quarter lead. The Lady Pirates outscored the Bulldogs 49-17 the rest of the way.
Aliyah Ratley and Maya McCoy chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively, for Lumberton.
Tia Glover led St. Pauls (2-3) with 11 points.
Reach Sports editor Kaleb Roedel at 910-272-6111 or email@example.com.
BOYS: Lumberton 58, St. Pauls 55
LHS 10 7 20 21 — 58; STP 14 11 14 16 — 55
Lumberton — Montrae Strother 15, Demetri Sheridan 13, Phillips 8, Williams 6, Sampson 5, Revels 5, Suggs 2, Deese 2, Johnson 2.
St. Pauls — Malik Livingston 21, Deion Gilchrist 18, Javon Crawford 10, Morgan 4, Burden 2.
3-Point Goals — LHS: Sampson. STP: Livingston 2, Gilchrist.
Records — Lumberton 1-4, St. Pauls 3-2.
GIRLS: Lumberton 64, St. Pauls 21
LHS 15 19 22 8 — 64; STP 4 5 6 6 —21
Lumberton — Azaya Graham 15, Aliyah Ratley 11, Maya McCoy 10, Jones 6, McNeill 4, Singeltary 4, Locklear 4, Sampson 4, Faircloth 2, McBride 2, Ingram 2.
St. Pauls — Tia Glover 11, Lesane 4, Mitchell 3, Locklear 2, Johnson 1.
3-Point Goals — LHS: Graham 3. STP: Mitchell.
Records — Lumberton 3-2, St. Pauls 2-3.