RAEFORD — The Lumberton boys basketball team knew it would have its hands full on Wednesday night at Hoke battling against Silas Love, arguably the best post player in the Southeastern Conference.
Looking to avenge a home loss to the Pirates earlier this season, Love and the Bucks came out ready to play, closing strong to earn a 66-52 win over Lumberton in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Love recorded a double-double for top-seeded Hoke (19-6), dominating the interior throughout the night to finish with a game-high 22 points and 18 rebounds.
“Silas has such good hands, if the ball gets near him, he’s grabbing it,” Lumberton coach Matt Hill said. “We didn’t really have much of an answer for him.”
Taking advantage of its length on the interior, Hoke held the Pirates (12-13) without a field goal in the final four minutes, outscoring the visitors 19-9 in the fourth quarter. Stephon Lloyd knocked down 1-of-2 free throws to trim the Bucks lead to three with 1:50 remaining, but the Pirates wouldn’t score again as the Hoke closed the game with an 11-0 spurt.
Love iced the game with a one-handed dunk, giving the Bucks a 10-point lead with 19 seconds left to play.
“It was an intense game,” Hill said. “With us beating them at home last time they had a chip on their shoulder and they came out ready to play. There were no surprises this game.
“We missed some shots and that happens being on the road. They had some shots and dunks when they needed the momentum. That’s what playmakers do.”
Kwashek Breeden led three Pirates in double figures, scoring 10 of his 14 points in the first half, knocking down a 3-pointer with 1:10 left in the second quarter to give Lumberton a 33-30 advantage at the break.
Jordan McNeill scored 13 points for the Pirates, with Lloyd adding 12.
Hoke took the lead for good in the third quarter, starting the period on an 11-2 run that was capped with a layup by Elijah Harris to give the Bucks a 41-35 lead. Lumberton rallied to cut the lead to two points after a 3-pointer by Tyreik McCallum, but Mykeem Shaw made a layup to give Hoke a four-point edge heading into the final period.
Harris scored 10 points for Hoke, with Andre Pagues adding 11.
With the season likely over for the Pirates, Hill said he told his players he was proud of them after his first year at the helm.
“I’m proud to wear the Lumberton colors,” he said. “It’s tough for seniors to be in the system one year, but it’s a building process. We have a lot of youth to build on and I’m excited about that.”
Hoke will host Richmond in the SEC tournament championship at 7 p.m. Friday.