ROWLAND — With the South Robeson boys basketball team closing the week on Friday with its third game in four days, Red Springs coach Glenn Patterson wanted to test the Mustangs’ legs.
After switching up defenses and speeding up the game with an up-tempo offense, the Red Devils were cruising late in the Three Rivers Conference contest. Then South Robeson caught its second wind that Patterson didn’t expect to see from a team coming off a double-overtime win from the night before.
“We knew they were fatigued and had stiff competition this week and we wanted to keep our foot on the pedal and try to wear them down toward the end, but it seemed like they got some energy from somewhere,” Patterson said. “I’ve been waiting for this. We haven’t played well since the snow and I challenged them yesterday to come back and play Red Springs basketball. I thought the kids did that.”
The Mustangs cut down the Red Devils’ lead in the fourth quarter that was as much as 16 points to three points late, but the experience of playing in close games helped Red Springs hold off its in-county opponent with an 82-77 win on the road for its fifth straight win.
South Robeson (8-9, 6-7 TRC) rode the scoring of its top two offensive threats in the final period as forward Cameron Werrell and guard Jarurius Davis hit big 3-pointer after big 3-pointer to trim the Red Springs (14-3, 11-1 TRC) lead to single digits. Davis scored nine straight points inside of two minutes to go on a trio of buckets from behind the arc to bring life to the Mustangs.
“We didn’t execute well in the first half, we got away from our sets and weren’t playing team basketball,” South Robeson coach Ryan Bullard said. “In the second half, we stepped up defensively and our full court press gave us a chance. That’s what brought us back and into striking distance.”
The final 3-pointer cut the lead to 74-69 with less than 1 1/2 minutes left, but time started to run out and Red Springs’ experience came through.
Red Springs guard Monte’ Wilkerson scored eight of his game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter to provide the final push, and his steady play on defense and offense on the night was a guiding force for Red Springs. He added four rebounds, four assists and four steals as well.
The Red Devils’ last four wins have each been decided by less than 10 points.
“I told them that as bad as we have been playing, we are still coming up with wins, and that speaks volumes about them,” Patterson said.
The first half was controlled by Red Springs from the tip, with South Robeson chipping into the lead on a couple of occasions in the second quarter, but never leading. In the third quarter, a six-point halftime lead went to as much as 14 midway through the frame when forward Marcus Monroe came off the bench and scored six of his nine points on the night.
Monroe had more responsibility on his shoulder Friday with the absence of Jerome Bass in the post going up against the size of South Robeson’s frontline, and he didn’t back away.
“I try to come out with 100 percent every time on defense and offense,” Monroe said. “Coach says to go out there and box out and get the rebounds and hustle. Coach just said I needed to step up and do the job.”
Monroe chipped in 13 rebounds for the Red Devils as well.
“He played really big for us. That’s the second game that he has done that for us,” Patterson said of Monroe. “He’s so humble and has been waiting his turn. When his number is called, he steps in and gives what he can. I thought tonight he stepped up offensively as well as on the boards.”
With the defeat, South Robeson’s four-game win streak that started with a win over Whiteville last Friday was snapped. During that streak, the Mustangs came back from a 20-plus point second-half deficit to win at the buzzer against Purnell Swett, topped then third-place in the conference West Columbus and held off West Bladen in double overtime. Bullard has seen his team’s confidence grow as it was able to flip the results from close losses earlier in the year to close wins.
“I told them that’s four out of five and it’s still a positive. We’ve still got five games left, so let’s win four more and go against Fairmont and see what happens,” Bullard said. “We had a lot of confidence coming off the Whiteville and Purnell games, but definitely over West that was a big win for the program. All those close games early in the season are really paying off.”
Werrell had a team-high 23 points and 12 rebounds for the Mustangs and Davis added 16 points. Red Springs’ Caleel Mitchell had 16 points and four assists.
Red Springs returns to the hardwood on Tuesday against Whiteville, and South Robeson goes to East Columbus.
Red Springs girls continue turnaround against Lady Mustangs
Taya Jones scored 20 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to lead the Red Springs girls basketball team to a 63-51 win over South Robeson for its third victory in four tries, after dropping three straight games prior to the streak.
Red Springs (11-6, 9-3 TRC) also got a scoring lift from Taylynn Atkinson with 15 points and 10 rebounds, Katelyn Culbreth with eight points and Kamryn Bell added seven points.
South Robeson’s (1-16, 1-12 TRC) Nytia Lewis had 15 points and Zanetta Ellerbee chipped in 14 points.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.