Pirates falter late at Hoke

By: By Rodd Baxley - Sports editor

RAEFORD — Lumberton coach Matt Hill didn’t want to sound cliché on Thursday night.

But following the Pirates’ 79-58 loss at Hoke in the semifinals of the Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament, Hill could only say so much.

“I know it’s cliché, but the ball didn’t bounce our way a lot of times,” he said.

“We’d have our hands on it and it would just pop out, things we don’t normally do. It just wasn’t our night.”

On a night where it seemed liked there was a lid on the basket for the Pirates (14-12), the Bucks (25-1) took advantage down the stretch with a 24-12 scoring advantage in the fourth quarter, including a 19-6 run to blow the game open.

“I thought the kids kept fighting, it was just a tough night,” Hill continued. “We just have to play good team ball. Not that we didn’t play team ball tonight, things just came a lot harder than usual. That’s really the only way to describe it.”

Behind the shooting of Dakari Johnson and the inside play of UNCP signee Silas Love, Hoke watched a two-point halftime lead balloon to 23 points late in the fourth quarter.

Johnson scored a game-high 28 points, including five 3-pointers, to lead the Bucks into Friday’s championship against Scotland. Love logged 16 points, knocking down all six of his free throws, and pulled down 13 rebounds for the hosts.

The Bucks only missed four shots from the charity stripe, compared to 11 for the Pirates. After a layup by Lacy Mitchell pulled Lumberton within seven points at the beginning of the final period, the Bucks reeled off a 14-3 spurt to put the game out of reach with under four minutes left to play.

Jordan McNeill scored a team-best 21 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to lead a trio of Lumberton players in double figures. Steph Lloyd and Kwasheek Breeden logged 10 points each for the Pirates, who will learn their playoff destination on Saturday.

It will be Lumberton’s first playoff appearance since the 2014-15 season and the first under Hill, who is in his second season with the program.

“The kids are pretty excited about that,” he said. “Hopefully, the tough loss we had (against Hoke) will fire the guys up to want to come out and play hard because we’re going to be playing on the road. We really have to bring it.”

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By Rodd Baxley

Sports editor

Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.

Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.