PEMBROKE — In the last few days of the 14 day layoff for the Lumberton boys basketball team, coach Matt Hill saw a difference in the energy level from his team. He’s not sure what the cause might have been other than their pride, but Hill will take the result that came on Friday.
Against its rival Purnell Swett inside the English Jones Center at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Lumberton showed the team that had practiced the few days prior in the form of an 81-50 Sandhills Athletic Conference win.
“Two years ago when I was at St. Pauls and we had that 11-0 run, we had the layoff and it was like the chemistry changed. To me, it looks like the opposite of that situation because our kids came back from two tough losses to their rival and this week’s practice is the best combined back-to-back practices in my two years I’ve been here,” Hill said.
“All out just playing hard. After an hour and a half the kids couldn’t hardly walk. They’ve come together to say they were tired of losing and it showed tonight.”
While the Pirates got off to a slow start in the game, it was the play of junior forward Kwashek Breeden that was the initial spark for their offense that had its explosion in the second quarter. Before this game, Hill challenged his big man and saw the result tonight.
“I challenged his manhood about Tuesday of this week and he’s hated me for the three days after,” Hill said. “I guess it worked because he played like a man tonight. That’s the Kwashek I know. For us to be successful that’s the Kwashek we’re going to need every night.”
Breeden finished with a game-high 23 points and 18 rebounds for the Pirates (7-8, 2-3 SAC) as it outscored Purnell Swett (5-6, 1-4 SAC) 26-11 in the second quarter. The junior forward used his 6-foot-5 frame that towered over the rest of the players on the floor to control play on the inside with his rebounding and scoring.
“I had to play to my ability and keep the team up. They knew I could score and they put me at a good position,” Breeden said. ”I knew I was longer and taller than the other people so I just jumped to my ability.”
To keep the defense honest, Breeden went 3-for-4 from behind the arc in the win, Lumberton’s 13th straight in the series against Purnell Swett.
“I’ve been working hard on that a lot lately, and you practice how you play,” Breeden said. “We know that we are a better team that we have been so we’ve been working hard to get where we need to be.”
Along with the play of Breeden in the second quarter, senior guard Steph Lloyd scored all of his 11 points in a 20-3 run in the frame. With leading scorer Jordan McNeill restricted with an ankle injury that left his playing sporadic minutes, Lloyd carried the Pirates’ backcourt.
“Steph really stepped it up,” Hill said. “He is our guy, when he believes in himself, that settles everybody down, he’s strong enough with the ball to wait on everybody to get where they are supposed to be and buys us a little more time. Part of Steph doing that opens other people up.”
The 13-point halftime lead from Lumberton was never challenged as it grew to as much as 20 in the third quarter and even wider in the final eight minutes.
In the first nine minutes of the game, the 12-game win streak for the Pirates seemed in jeopardy with all-around play of Purnell Swett, led by its role players. Kevin Hardin, Noah Evington and Keegan Brayboy complimented the early play of Xavier Jones and Kyler Page in the first quarter to give the Rams an 15-13 lead after the first quarter.
Foul trouble started to mount for the Rams with three of its top scoring and defensive options sitting with two fouls in Page, Jones and Darriante Parker. The run from the Pirates started quickly into the second quarter and the reserves on the court for the Rams had trouble keeping up with the Lumberton starters.
“We’ve got a good bench, and we are relatively deep, but still that hurts when you’ve got athletic kids like Duke (Jones) and KP (Page) on the bench,” Purnell Swett coach Jeremy Sampson said. “We came out and had a good game before the foul trouble.”
Purnell Swett ended its 20-day layoff dating back to the Robeson County Shootout with this contest.
Page had a team-high 12 points and Jones tacked on 10 points and seven rebounds for the Rams.
Along with Breeden’s high-scoring night, McNeill tacked on 12 points and seven rebounds and Braylan Grice had eight points and 10 rebounds.
Lumberton returns to the court next Friday at Hoke to start the final half of conference play, while Purnell Swett goes to South Robeson on Wednesday.
Lumberton girls rout Lady Rams
Behind 25 points from Madison Canady and a defense that held Purnell Swett to less than seven points in three periods, the Lumberton girls basketball team cruised to a 66-21 win on the road Friday.
Lumberton (13-2, 4-1 SAC) picked up its 12th straight win in the series, and rebounded in its first Sandhills Athletic Conference game since its loss to Pinecrest on Dec. 15. To go along with Canady’s 25 points and 12 rebounds, London Thompson had 19 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
Purnell Swett (3-8, 0-5 SAC) was led by Chelsea Jones with nine points.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.