By Charlie Bergmann
Special to The Pilot
Pinecrest's deep bench made its presence felt early and often in Tuesday's 70-56 boys' basketball victory over Scotland County in Laurinburg.
Faronte Drakeford, who finished with a team-high 18 points, and Cedrick Threadgill, who added 16, both came off the bench and played important roles in an early, defense-driven 17-0 run. Harron Carson was another big contributor off the bench, blocking four shots and handing out six assists in addition to scoring four points.
The Patriots improved to 13-2 overall and 2-0 in the Southeastern Conference. They continue league play with a 7:30 p.m. home game tonight against Purnell Swett.
Mo Covington scored 23 points for the Scots, now 7-7 and 1-1.
In all, the non-starters for the Patriots contributed 42 points as compared to 28 for the starters.
"I think our depth is an incredible weapon," Patriot coach Mike Apple said. "The biggest thing you can say about Cedrick and Faronte is that they're very accepting of any role I thrust them in. And you can't say enough about Harron and Marshall Smith. They gave us good minutes with James (Baldwin) and Daquain (Towns) in foul trouble."
Trailing 6-2 in the early going, a three by Baldwin and layup by Towns off a Julian Brewer steal put the Patriots in front for good. Later, another steal and a dunk by Brewer made it 11-6.
The devastating 17-0 blitz wound up with a steal and layup by Carson that made it 19-6. Drakeford finished the first period with eight points and the Patriots in command 27-12.
"Coach puts a lot of emphasis on defense, and when we play good defense, it rewards us," Drakeford said.
Only the big night by Covington kept the Scots within striking distance, but a 12-point second half by Threadgill helped counter his efforts. A three by Covington and a basket by Dominique Clark cut the Patriot lead to 55-46 with seven minutes remaining in the game.
Drakeford responded with two straight steals, turning one of them into a layup and the other into a pair of free throws. The home team was unable to cut the lead to single digits again.
"Our defense bailed us out several times tonight," Apple said.
Threadgill, a senior, was one of the leading returnees from last season's team. Drakeford, a junior, got off to an impressive start in his varsity career by earning MVP honors at the Pilot Cup tournament won by the Patriots in November.
Baldwin replaced Drakeford in the starting lineup in the first game of the Holiday in the Pines tournament. The 6-foot-4 forward is currently scoring an average of nine points per game. Towns is the leader at 12.7.
"James is a good player, and I don't mind coming off the bench," Drakeford said. "Everybody that comes off the bench brings a lot of energy to the game."
Drakeford was asked how he became so proficient finishing fast breaks with left-handed shots.
"Since middle school, coach (Ronshau) Cole really got us working with our left hand," he said, referring to the former coach at Southern Middle who currently leads the Patriot jayvee team.
Carson (4), Towns (2), Brewer (2) and Threadgill (1) combined to block nine Scot shots. A spectacular swat by Towns in the second quarter electrified the fans on both sides of the gym.
Pinecrest 27 9 19 15 - 70
Scotland 12 12 20 12 - 56
Pinecrest - McLaughlin 0 0-0 0, Wallace 1 0-0 2, Towns 6 0-0 12, Brewer 3 1-2 7, Baldwin 2 2-2 7, Threadgill 7 1-2 16, Drakeford 7 4-4 18, Carson 2 0-3 4, Smith 0 2-2 2, Jones 1 0-0 2 Totals 29 10-15 70. Scotland - McIntyre 2 0-0 4, Clark 3 1-2 7, McMillan 4 0-0 8, Browne 3 2-3 8, Covington 8 5-5 23, Deese 1 0-1 2, McRae 1 2-2 4. Totals 22 10-13 56. Three-point goals: (P) 2 (Baldwin, Threadgill); (S) 2 (Covington 2).
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