Rarely do preseason polls amount to much, but it seems, though early, we got it right during Thanksgiving with our early rankings of Robeson County’s boys basketball teams.
We’ve already seen a fantastic overtime game between the area’s supposed two best teams, but it appears St. Pauls — not Lumberton — may have the top-to-bottom athleticism comparable to Fairmont.
The Bulldogs, by head coach Travis Lemanski’s estimation, should be unbeaten at this point if not for a few calls that didn’t go St. Pauls’ way during a road loss to South Brunswick. In that game, St. Pauls squandered a double-digit lead before falling by three during a mistake-plagued and whistle-heavy final quarter.
While it may not be showing up in the wins department thus far, several players have separated themselves as potential stars for their respective teams including Lumberton’s Montrae Strother and Fairmont’s Kwinton Hinson.
Based on a variety of factors, including strength of schedule correlating to classification, overall talent and head-to-head eye tests, here is how staff writer Brad Crawford ranks Robeson County’s six prep boys basketball teams heading into Shootout week.
Comments are welcome.
6. South Robeson (0-4): Head coach Bryan Grice liked what he saw from his team during preseason practice but it hasn’t shown up in the wins department this season. South Robeson was out-manned against Richmond and Whiteville and haven’t found a reliable option at the offensive end. The Mustangs are going through a down period on the hardwood, but things will get better.
5. Purnell Swett (1-4): If not for a win over a first-year program, Swett, like Lumberton, would be winless at this junction. Jeremy Sampson says the offense is still working out the kinks without a true point guard and hoping to get a couple of players back from injury as early as next week. James Chavis has cooled off from the outside and the Rams will need him along with a few others in the frontcourt to step it up in next week’s Shootout.
4. Red Springs (1-3): What Red Springs doesn’t have in talent, the program makes up for with intensity. Glenn Patterson’s teams are always well-coached defensively and focus on getting after it on that end of the floor. Two of the Red Devils’ losses came to Gray’s Creek, the other against South View. Red Springs’ lone win at Purnell Swett can be attributed to defense.
3. Lumberton (0-4): One could probably flip-flop Lumberton and St. Pauls at this point based on the Pirates’ strength of schedule, but a winless record is hard to get past. Lumberton’s four-point home loss to Fairmont last week proved its up to task of playing toe-to-toe with the county’s best, but Tuesday’s disappointing blowout at Seventy-First is the type of growing pains this young team must battle through. The Pirates, with a slightly bruised ego, strive for win No. 1 tonight at home against St. Pauls.
2. St. Pauls (3-1): Finally, it appears St. Pauls is playing up to its potential. The Bulldogs have underachieved the past two seasons with good players and the chemistry hasn’t been there, but a win tonight over the 4A Pirates could be just what the doctor ordered for Malik Livingston and rest of St. Pauls’ stable of scorers. Lemanski says tonight’s game could separate his team as a true contender and give his roster a boost of confidence heading into holiday play.
1. Fairmont (3-2): The county’s most talented team sure hasn’t played like it this season. The Golden Tornadoes have sputtered at times on both ends of the floor, but have still won three out of five contests. To Fairmont’s credit, both of its defeats thus far are considered ‘quality’ losses. The Golden Tornadoes’ blemishes came against a team that’s simply better than Michael Baker’s group at this point of the season. Hoke County is a veteran-laden club that used a considerable height advantage and athleticism on the fast break. The Bucks will be in the 4A championship mix when it’s all said and done. Outside shooting and transition defense has been a problem during the first few weeks for the Golden Tornadoes as they gear up for another run to the Shootout finals. As talented as Fairmont is from the starting lineup to its bench, it has a long way to go to be considered a viable 2A threat. Though early, there’s too much inconsistency at this junction.