FAYETTEVILLE — With the Sandhills Athletic Conference championship and top seed for the state duals championship locked up, the focus for the Purnell Swett wrestling team changed on Saturday at the conference tournament hosted at Jack Britt.
With the team goal already accomplished in Tuesday’s home dual meet, Purnell Swett coach Nicky Barnes wanted his wrestlers to pick up awards for themselves.
“We had it (the conference championship) locked in and we today was about the guys as individuals having fun and wrestling like the champions they are,” he said.
Purnell Swett finished second in the tournament to Pinecrest and Lumberton finished third as both Robeson County teams bringing home multiple conference titles and all-conference awards.
The Rams had four first-place finishers in the tournament, along with three other runner-up finishers to send seven to the all-conference team in the event. Senior 145-pounder Rommie McNeill finished the season 34-3, perfect in conference play and was named the conference’s wrestler of the year.
McNeill won both bouts on Saturday to earn the conference tournament title, to mark one thing off his list of goals going into the season.
“It just paid off all the hard work and dedication,” McNeill said. “I can’t take too much credit. I owe it all to my coach and my drill partners.
“It’s our senior year and that’s what we wanted (to make the dual state playoffs) and we finally brought it.”
Along with his first-place finish, Jastan Simmons, Jon Lockler and Millard Locklear won their weight classes.
The focus for Purnell Swett turns to Tuesday as it makes history to compete in and host the first state duals playoff match in school history. Barnes said all signs point to a matchup with Cardinal Gibbons, and the extra mat time ahead of regionals is a plus for his team that looks to make noise in the state playoffs.
“This is my first time ever in the state duals as a coach. I wrestled in them (in high school), but it will be a first for me,” Barnes said. “It’s something they will never forget and something the school will never let them forget.”
To get to where the Rams were on Saturday with the conference champion trophy in hand was a mission Barnes set out for when he took the job at Purnell Swett.
“This is a trophy I set out for six years ago to put in the trophy case and we have been grinding day in and day out year round,” he said. “All I can say is we did it. … This just proves that a whole season’s worth of work has fallen into place.”
Lumberton had four wrestlers claim first place in their class in Noah Taylor, Yakemiean Johnson, Ed Brock and Tray Regan, and all 10 of the wrestlers the Pirates had finished in the top four of their weight class. Like Purnell Swett, Lumberton also sent seven wrestlers to the all-conference team.
“Everybody made it to the consolation finals or the championship and that included a lot of young guys,” Lumberton coach Jamie Bell said. “That’s hopeful because you want to see your guys do well. Our mentality is to get these guys matches so they have experience.”
Lumberton takes two from Scotland
LUMBERTON — The jubilation and pride that Lumberton boys basketball coach Matt Hill felt for him team after Friday night’s victory over Seventy-First was something he thought he would never be able to top.
Then came Saturday’s game against Scotland, who was sitting in a tie for second in the Sandhills Athletic Conference.
Behind another outing of “team ball,” the Pirates erased a halftime deficit and held off Scotland late for a 48-44 home win and their coach’s emotions from Friday were topped as well.
“I told them last night that was the most proud I have ever been of a team, and I lied to them because tonight tops it,” Hill said. “That’s a good team we just beat.
“The last two night the biggest difference, other than playing together, was the boys were having fun, even when we were down.”
The Scots (12-5, 6-3 SAC) led 28-20 heading into the second half, and the third quarter is when Lumberton (9-10, 4-5 SAC) found its mark with improvement defensively and on the glass. Scotland was held to seven points in the quarter on three field goals, as the the Pirates trimmed the lead to 35-34 heading into the fourth quarter, with Lacy Mitchell scoring eight points in the period.
In the fourth, Mitchell, Steph Lloyd and Jordan McNeill guided the Pirates that took the lead on its first possession, and didn’t relinquish it, despite several spurts from Scotland that trimmed the lead down to one possession. McNeill’s layup and the foul that he converted at the free-throw line with 37 seconds left was the dagger that took the lead to 46-42.
McNeill had 14 points, nine rebounds and five steals and Lloyd and Mitchell each accounted for 10 points. Scotland’s Isaiah Bostick had 16 points.
Lumberton jumped into a tie for fourth place in the conference with the win, and with the top four seeds getting playoff berths, Hill was up front with his team on what it needs to do with five regular season games and the conference tournament left.
“I told them we’ve got to be in fourth place to make the playoffs or at least have a chance. If we are in fifth place, there’s no shot,” Hill said. “These seniors want to make the playoffs and they have been busting tail in practice.” In the girls game, Lumberton had two players record double-doubles in the 65-23 win over Scotland.
London Thompson had 15 points, 11 steals and eight assists, and Madison Canady had 12 point and 11 rebounds for the Lady Pirates (15-3, 6-2 SAC) that held Scotland to five points in the second half. Rachel O’Neil added 11 points and Destiny Hardin pulled down 11 boards.
Scotland’s (2-13, 1-7 SAC) Tykeria McNair scored a team-high seven points.
Lumberton hosts Pinecrest on Tuesday and Scotland travels to Seventy-First.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.