DUBLIN — The Lumberton High Pirates used a 16-2 run to close the first half and put the West Bladen Knights in a hole they could not climb out of en route to taking a 69-58 win in the opening round of the Woodmen of the World Christmas Tournament on Friday.
The loss, West Bladen’s third straight, drops the Knights to 5-5 and sends them into today’s consolation game against New Bern High at 6 p.m.
Lumberton (4-6) will face Whiteville High in the championship game tonight at 8 p.m.
The Knights opened the game with a 4-0 spurt, but Lumberton put together a 9-2 run sparked by a 3-pointer from Montrae Strother and took a 9-6 lead. Malcolm Vaught canned a three-pointer to knot the game, but the Pirates got a 3-pointer from Darius Floyd and a free throw by Demetri Sheridan to reclaim the lead at 13-9.
After the two teams traded baskets, West Bladen finished the first quarter with a 5-0 spurt thanks to a steal and basket at the buzzer by Rahu Purdie that knotted the game at 16-16.
Neither team could get anything more than a two-point lead through the first four minutes of the second quarter, but that’s when the Knights went cold. Over the final few minutes, Lumberton outscored West Bladen by a 16-2 margin and took a 39-26 lead into intermission.
“We switched defenses late in the half and put more pressure on them,” Lumberton coach Mackie Register said. “But we’ll need more intensity in the second half. We know they’ll push the ball.”
West Bladen coach Travis Pait had another view of the second quarter collapse.
“We didn’t do anything the last four minutes,” he said. “And it was all self-inflicted. But that will change.”
It did, but not enough.
The Knights opened the second half with an 12-4 run using balanced scoring and uptempo offense to cut the deficit to 43-38, but Lumberton answered with a 6-2 run to extend the lead to 49-40. Vaught nailed another three-pointer at the end of the quarter to pull West Bladen to within 51-46.
Devonta Smith hit a bucket to open the fourth quarter, pulling the Knights to within three, but that would be the closest they would get. Lumberton reeled off a 12-0 run on the strength of eight points from Sheridan and broke open a 63-48 lead. Vaught hit a 3-pointer to stop the bleeding, and he added another three late in the quarter, but it was too little too late.
“Our shots have to fall for us to win, and they weren’t,” Pait said. “But I was pleased with the second half. It was that four minutes at the end of the first half that lost us the game.”
“Our transition defense was pretty good and that really helped us,” Register said.
Sheridan led the Pirates with 22 points, while Strother added 20 points.
For West Bladen, Vaught had 20 points behind four three-pointers, and Smith added 17 points. Nate Pryor led the Knights with 10 rebounds.
Ratley, Lady Pirates top Whiteville
Aliyah Ratley’s 15-point, 12-rebound double-double led the Lumberton girls basketball team to a 52-35 win over Whiteville in the opening round of the Woodmen of the World Christmas tournament.
Lumberton (7-3) held a 23-22 edge at halftime before pulling away in the second half. The Lady Pirates’ stymied Whiteville to just three points in the third quarter.
“Defense is always our key, and it really kicked in the second half,” Lumberton head coach Danny Graham said. “And we rebounded well, too. Our team chemistry was good and we got a real team effort.”
Lumberton’s Keanna McNeill added 16 points while Azaya Graham and Raven Ingram chipped in eight apiece.
The Lady Pirates take on West Bladen, a 56-43 winner over Clinton, in the tournament championship game at 4 p.m. Lumberton defeated West Bladen 59-47 in the finals of the Robeson County Shootout on Dec. 15 at UNCP.
“They’re on their home court this time so we know we’ll have to be ready to play,” Graham said of West Bladen which is 3-0 at home this season.