Bucks Hold Off Patriots
The Pinecrest boys came up short against No. 6-ranked Hoke County Tuesday evening.
But they may have recaptured the formula that helped them win 10 of their first 13 games of the season.
Adam Cummings converted a three-point play to bring the Patriots within two points of the Bucks with seven minutes remaining in the game. With 5:10 left, his bid to tie the game on a drive to the basket was denied on a blocked shot by Brennen Wright.
The defensive stop provided the spark for a 13-0 Buck run. A dunk in transition for a three-point play by Rashad Parker gave the visitors an insurmountable 57-42 lead.
The eventual 67-51 loss was the Patriots’ third in a row as they dropped to 10-6 overall and 2-3 in the Southeastern Conference.
Cummings led the Patriots with 16 points. Tarique Thompson scored 24 for the first-place Bucks now 17-2 and 5-0. The Patriots travel to Lumberton this evening for a 7:30 p.m. contest that begins the second half of conference play.
“It’s funny with these guys,” Patriot coach Andrew Lacey said. “The game and who they play dictates how they play. Hoke is the best we have in this conference and they played an almost flawless game for 29 minutes.”
Before one of the largest crowds of the season, the Patriots got their fans into it right away with their defensive effort and battles on the boards against the taller Bucks. Giving up about four inches, Justin Ray put all of his energy into taking on the 6-foot-5 Thompson, who averages 22 points per game, but had to take an early seat after being whistled for two fouls.
“We faced a lot of adversity early, getting two offensive fouls and a hand check,” Lacey said, “so the way they battled back from that with the help of the crowd showed a lot of resilience.”
A jumper by Jvyhoun Justice, for his sixth and seventh points, gave the Patriots a 13-9 lead at the end of the first quarter. The visitors led 21-19 at halftime and increased the margin to eight points in the third period. But a three by Cummings, a jumper by Ray and a drive for two by Cummings, cut the margin to 34-33.
As the clock wound down in the period, Thompson stole an inbound pass and drained a three at the buzzer, making it 44-37 going to the fourth quarter. But the Patriots weren’t done yet.
“This was a great atmosphere,” Lacey said. “I knew these guys had it tonight. They were focused and they had heart. Our goal was to be there in the fourth quarter, and if they (Hoke) felt the heat a little bit — who knows how it would go.”
Cummings’ three-point play at the start of the fourth raised the decibel level of the Patriots fans. On the potential game-tying drive, his shot was blocked by Wright, a friend.
“I thought it was a foul,” Cummings said, “but I’ll give it to him. He’s my old teammate in AAU (Fayetteville Stars).”
Thompson made another three in the blistering run that ended with the Parker dunk.
Hoke’s only losses came against Seventy-First and Westover. Coming in, Buck coach Kwame Patterson wasn’t taking anything for granted.
“They played hard and they’re well-coached,” he said of the Patriots. “They ran their stuff and got exactly what they wanted and frustrated us a little bit.
“You saw where Pinecrest lost to Scotland the other night. You have to come to play every night. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the top or on the bottom.”
If the Patriots drifted away from what had them on a roll at the midway point of the season, there were indications Tuesday they are back on track.
“We’ve had this formula the whole time,” Cummings said. “It’s about whether we play hard enough to do it. That’s what it comes down to.”
At 2-3 in the league after a 2-0 start, Friday’s game against the Pirates (6-12, 0-4) increases in importance.
“I think they realize we’re back,” Lacey said. “We’ve got two days to prepare for Lumberton. It’s a must game for us and we’ll see how it shakes out.”
Hoke 9 12 23 23 — 67
Pinecrest 11 8 18 14 — 51
Hoke: Blue 4 2-2 10, Harris 1 0-0 3, Jones 0 2-2 2, Wright 3 2-4 8, Shaw-Willis 4 0-1 9, Parker 3 1-1 7, Thompson 9 3-4 24, Book 2 0-0 4. Totals 26 10-14 67.
Pinecrest: Ray 4 0-1 8, Brower 1 2-2 4, Ortiz 1 1-2 3, Cummings 6 1-1 16, Wooten 2 1-4 5, Calhoun 1 0-1 2, Winter-McRae 0 0-0 0, Painter 2 0-0 4, Justice 4 0-0 9, Ivey 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 5-11 51.
Three-point goals: H 5 (Thompson 3, Harris, Shaw-Willis); P 4 (Cummings 3, Justice).
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