LAURINBURG — With his team trailing by double digits late in the third quarter of Monday’s game at Scotland High School, Tyreik McCallum refused to give up.
“When we got in (the locker room) at halftime, Coach (Matt Hill) said, ‘It ain’t over yet, we still have two more quarters,’” said McCallum, Lumberton’s senior leader. “I took that to heart. I didn’t want this to be my last game.”
Catching the ball from a teammate at the top of the key with 2:22 left in the period, McCallum attacked the rim, rising for a vicious one-handed dunk to swing the momentum in favor of the Pirates.
“We got going after that,” said McCallum, who scored 14 of his game-high 30 points in the third period.
He delivered again with 18 seconds left in the game, knocking down a free throw to give Lumberton the lead for good en route to a 75-74 win in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
“We just played hard and didn’t give up,” said McCallum, who pulled down 13 rebounds to finish with a double-double.
For Hill, McCallum’s success was a welcome sight. In the previous three games, the Pirates’ star player combined to score just 23 points.
“I can’t say enough about him,” Hill said. “(Tyreik) just kept going. Sometimes he gets that eye of the tiger, like tonight. It didn’t matter if they wanted to triple team him, he was going to get to the basket.”
D.J. McDonald also logged a double-double for the Pirates (12-12), dropping 13 points to go with 13 rebounds. With Lumberton nursing a 73-72 lead, McDonald skied to pull down a missed free throw by McCallum, making a putback layup to give the Pirates a 75-72 advantage.
The Scots (11-14) raced down the court for a quick basket to cut the lead back to one and called a timeout to set up their full-court defense. Following the stoppage, Scotland forced a Lumberton turnover on the ensuing inbounds play, giving itself a chance to set up a play under its own basket with 4.3 seconds left in the game. But the Scots couldn’t take advantage as Justin McRae rimmed out a 3-pointer from the corner and Tyrese Baucom missed the putback as the buzzer sounded.
“I was proud of them,” Hill said of his team. “We could have rolled over, but the kids kept fighting hard.”
Leading by as many as 14 points in the first half, Scotland jumped out to a 21-7 lead behind a barrage of 3-pointers from Greg McMillan, who finished with five 3s and 22 points to lead the Scots. The Pirates stormed back with a 17-4 run to cut the lead to one after a free throw by McCallum, but Scotland closed the half with an 11-2 spurt to carry a 38-26 advantage into the break.
McCallum and Stephon Lloyd accounted for 20 of Lumberton’s 26 points in the opening half. McMillan scored 17 points in the first half, knocking down four of Scotland’s six 3-pointers.
“We just kept chipping away,” Hill said. “The kids got down a little bit because they were playing hard at times and things didn’t go our way. Those (Scotland) kids can really shoot the ball. Every time it seemed like we would chip it all the way back, they seemed to hit a big one.”
Jordan McNeil gave Lumberton its first lead since the opening minute with 2:32 left to play, converting an old-fashioned 3-point play to give the Pirates a 69-68 advantage. Lloyd followed with a 3-point play of his own to extend the lead to 72-68, but Scotland rallied back to tie it at 72-all before McCallum’s free throw gave Lumberton the lead for good.
McNeil finished with 11 points. Lloyd also added 11 points to go with seven rebounds and six assists.
As for the Pirates’ defense in the second half, Hill pointed to Kwashek Breeden as the player that helped Lumberton weather Scotland’s hot shooting.
“Kwashek might not have shown it on the points side, but he did an outstanding job on (Niem) Ratliffe,” Hill said. “That came by player choice. The team wanted (Kwashek) to be the one to guard (Ratliffe).”
Ratliffe finished with 16 points, McRae added 14 and Baucom had 10 for the Scots.
The Pirates will travel to Hoke on Wednesday for a chance to play in Friday’s championship game against Pinecrest or Richmond.
“We have to play better than we did tonight,” Hill said. “I don’t want to jinx it, but when we play Hoke the kids take it as a huge challenge. … I feel like the kids are going to show up. It will take a whole team effort.”
Check out the highlights of the game here.