WHITEVILLE — After watching the Red Springs boys basketball team give a lackluster defensive effort on Friday night in a one-point win over South Robeson, Glenn Patterson decided to give his squad the weekend to think about their performance.
“I told them I didn’t even want to see them (on Saturday) because we played awful,” the Red Devils coach said on Monday.
“We didn’t even practice. We met after school today after the pregame meal and walked through some things.”
The Red Devils responded on Monday night with arguably their best defensive effort of the season, vaulting to the top of the Three Rivers Conference standings with a 51-36 win at Whiteville to improve to 6-0 in the league play.
Caleel Mitchell scored all 15 of his points — including four 3-pointers — in the first half to lead the Red Devils (7-1, 6-0 TRC), who jumped out to a 14-2 lead and never looked back.
Mitchell also paced the defense with nine steals.
Red Springs used a half-court trap to rattle the Wolfpack (4-2, 4-2 TRC) throughout the night and had purposeful patience on offense to create easy scoring opportunities for its veteran trio of Mitchell, Monte’ Wilkerson and Nichorie West.
Wilkerson finished with nine points, seven assists, five rebounds and five steals. West added 11 points, five steals and three rebounds for the Red Springs, which led by as many 22 points in the second half.
“I knew they didn’t have the guard play with (Ty) Moss being out. They didn’t have the guard play to handle that (defense),” Patterson said.
“We wanted to stay in that, make them shooters and create turnovers. It worked to our advantage. We were rotating and limiting them to one shot.”
Patterson was also impressed with West’s performance.
“We were patient and we executed. Nichorie played big for us,” he said.
“I’ve been challenging him because he sometimes gets lost in the shadows. He’s a vital part of our offense because when they double (team) Caleel and Monte’, he’s got to be the one to step it up. He played exceptionally well for us.”
The Red Devils held Whiteville to single digits in two of the four periods, limiting the Wolfpack to six points in the opening frame and five points in the third period.
Cameron Smith logged 12 points to finish as the lone Whiteville player in double figures.
Red Springs carried a 32-19 lead into the break.
Now, the red-hot Red Devils will host Purnell Swett in the opening round of the Robeson County Shootout on Wednesday.
“I try not to put too much pressure on (our players). … there’s no favorite in the Shootout,” Patterson said.
“I think it’s pretty evenly matched up. It’s going to be exciting to watch at our place on Wednesday night. I just hope we can come away with a win because I hate early Saturday games.”
In other TRC action, South Robeson earned a 54-50 victory over East Columbus. Cameron Werrell logged a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Mustangs (3-4, 2-4 TRC). Jarias Davis finished with seven points and seven assists.
Romeo Jordan scored 12 points to lead St. Pauls to a 58-40 win at East Bladen. The Bulldogs improve to 5-4, including 4-2 in the TRC with the victory.
Fight breaks out in Lady Devils’ 34-32 win
Three players were initially ejected in Red Springs’ 34-32 win at Whiteville on Monday night.
A fight between the teams broke out in the third quarter, spoiling any chance of a post-game celebration for the Lady Red Devils (6-2, 6-0 TRC), who maintained their position atop the Three Rivers Conference.
With Whiteville (5-3, 4-2 TRC) nursing a 26-25 lead late in the third quarter, a foul turned into a fight when Red Springs’ Jalexis Bratcher and Whiteville’s Marquasia Smith were seen throwing punches. Both players were ejected for fighting and Red Springs forward Taylynn Atkinson was ejected for leaving the bench.
Atkinson’s ejection was not reported late Monday night, according to Red Springs adminstration.
It was deemed a disqualification.
As of now, Bratcher and Smith will be forced to serve a four-game suspension, according to the NCHSAA’s ejection policy for fighting.
Additional penalties could follow after game film is reviewed by officials.
“We’re disappointed,” Red Springs coach Steve Sinclair said. “You’re disappointed in the fact that it happened. But after that moment (our team) kind of stuck together and pulled together to get the win, even if it was an ugly win.”
Taya Jones scored 16 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:15 left, to lead the Lady Devils. Katelyn Culbreth pulled down eight rebounds to go with six points and Atkinson scored eight points before the ejection.
Nsaia Rogers scored eight points to lead the Lady Wolfpack, but Tariah Ferguson made it tough on Whiteville’s leading scorer throughout the night.
Ferguson blocked Rogers’ 3-point attempt as time expired to seal the victory for the Lady Devils.
“At the point when we really needed her to step up defensively, she did that for us,” Sinclair said of Ferguson. “Most of the time she’s playing the backline for us. So for her to come out and hold their best guard was really big for her.”
Red Springs trailed 20-17 at the half. The Lady Devils will host Purnell Swett in the first round of the Shootout on Wednesday.
“Hopefully, we’ve had our bad game for the week and now we can string some games together at the Shootout and keep it rolling for the rest of the year,” Sinclair said.
In other TRC action, St. Pauls dropped a 46-34 game at East Bladen and South Robeson lost by 18 points in a home game against East Columbus.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.