LUMBERTON — No one said getting back to the Robeson County Shootout championship game would be easy for Lumberton’s boys basketball team.
And coach Mackie Register’s not sure if he can handle that kind of torment again.
“It was a heavyweight prize fight, blow for blow,” Register said, out of breath following the Pirates’ 85-82 double-overtime victory over Dillon Friday night. “We hit a shot, they hit a shot. We make a play, they make a play. What a fantastic game.”
The Pirates and Wildcats exchanged the lead four times in the final minute of the second overtime before Justice Sampson’s 3 from the right wing with 16 seconds left put Lumberton ahead for good.
Dillon erased a 19-point deficit in the second half as the Pirates missed 12-of-16 free throws in the final 1:16 of regulation.
Lawrence Crouch’s jumper from the corner with 1.9 left in the fourth forced overtime after a pair of clanks at the charity stripe. The Wildcats followed that up with Tyreik McCallister’s 30-foot bomb at the buzzer in the first extra session that put another five minutes on the clock.
It made for an instant classic and one of the most memorable Shootout semifinal contests in the event’s 28-year history according to Public Schools of Robeson County athletics director Jason Suggs.
Dillon was vying for its first appearance in the tournament final.
“I wish we would’ve made a few earlier in the game so it wouldn’t have come down to that,” Register said. “Give Dillon credit, those guys hit some incredible shots.
Dillon center Jequan Knowlin finished with a monster outing, pouring in 23 points with 19 rebounds and eight blocks. His go-ahead putback with 34 seconds left in the second overtime gave the Wildcats the lead before Sampson’s jumper on the ensuing possession.
Sampson was one of three Pirates in double figures with 17 points. Travis Suggs hit five free throws in overtime to complete a 17-point, eight-assist night.
Lumberton’s headed to the tournament title game for a record 11th time. The Pirates (6-5) have won five championships and fell to West Bladen in the final last season.
“We’ve got to somehow turn our backs on this one and go play Fairmont,” Register said. “It’s a little redemption for us after losing last year. I hope we didn’t expend all of our energy.”
The rubber match between the county’s two best teams tips off at 8 p.m. inside the Jones Center at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
Defending girls champs derailed
In the girls semifinal, Dillon earned its first berth in the championship game with a 47-36 victory over the two-time defending champions.
An aggressive man-to-man defense and dominant rebounding edge from Dillon (6-0) was enough to thwart Lumberton’s strength on the perimeter and snap a personal six-game Shootout winning streak.
During that stretch, the Lady Pirates (7-4) had beaten tournament competition by an average of 27.3 points per game. Lumberton’s closest win during that period was a 59-53 victory over Dillon in the 2011 first round.
“Dillon did a great job of taking away what we wanted to do offensively,” Lumberton coach Danny Graham said. “Overall, they beat us at the defensive end and on the backboards.”
Graham wasn’t happy with his team’s effort to open the game and called timeout with 1:58 remaining in the first quarter. The animated veteran unloaded on his players for their lack of success on the defensive glass, a mishap that led to nine of Dillon’s first 12 points.
An early nine-point deficit was cut to one in the second before the Lady Wildcats took control in the third quarter thanks to Tyshanna Lester who led Dillon with a game-high 19 points.
Too many empty possessions down the stretch haunted Lumberton during its comeback bid.
“We had a little run there at the end, but we made a lot of mistakes,” Graham said.
Reach staff writer Brad Crawford at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.
Dillon 47, Lumberton 36
Dillon 12 6 18 11 — 47
Lumberton 5 7 14 10 — 36
Dillon — Tyshanna Lester 19, Briana Lee 10, Samuel 9, Campbell 6, Page 2, Breeden 2.
Lumberton — Randi Bullard 14, Andrews 8, Graham 6, Locklear 6, McKoy 2.
3-Point Goals — DHS: Lester 2, Lee 2. LHS: Graham, Locklear.
Record — Lumberton 7-4, Dillon 6-0.
Lumberton 85, Dillon 82
Dillon 8 10 21 25 10 8 — 82
Lumberton 22 10 15 17 10 11 — 85
Dillon — Jequan Knowlin 23, Julius Saunders 18, Eireon Hayes 11, Crouch 9, McCallister 8, McCall 7, Salmon 4, Myers 2.
Lumberton — Travis Suggs 17, Justice Sampson 17, Demetri Sheridan 15, Keanu Brock 11, Grissett 8, Cromartie 6, Johnson 4, Floyd 3, Gaddy 2, Everette 2.
3-Point Goals — DHS: Saunders 2, Crouch, McCallister. LHS: Sampson 3.
Technicals — DHS: Knowlin.
Fouled Out — DHS: Salmon, Myers, Hayes.
Record — Lumberton 6-5, Dillon 5-2.