Cavaliers nail down SAC's top 3A position

Feb. 8—It took a few extra days, but Southern Lee won the 3A half of the Sandhills Athletic Conference on Tuesday night without needing any backdoor.

Southern could have won the SAC 3A simply by waiting out the other teams until none of them could win enough conference games to catch the Cavaliers. However, Southern has been the dominant team in the 3A portion of the conference race all season and wanted to punch its automatic playoff berth and first-round home playoff game tickets with a win, not by backing in when someone else lost.

That came Tuesday night in Raeford, as the Cavaliers beat Hoke County 61-53, the same score as when the teams had met Jan. 10 at Cavalier Court. With the win, Southern (18-3, 7-3 SAC) cannot be caught in the conference race by any of the other 3A teams. None of them can finish with more than six conference wins even if they win out.

The Cavaliers missed their first chance to do this on Friday when they were upset at home by Pinecrest, and the other teams in the league held out hope of staying alive if the 4A Bucks (13-8, 5-5), the SAC's third-place team, could hold court against the Cavaliers. Hoke had been tied with Southern through three quarters when the teams met here.

But the Cavaliers picked up right where they'd left off. Having outscored the Bucks 18-10 in the fourth quarter last month, they did the same Tuesday night in the opening period. The lead was 32-22 at the half, and the Cavaliers held them at bay in a defense-oriented second half.

Hoke had an odd shooting day, where it made just two of seven free throws but shot the lights out from long range, hitting eight of nine tries from behind the arc. It wasn't enough to overcome the Cavaliers, however.

Nysheed Williams led Southern with 22 points. Isaiah Upchurch added 17, T.J. Carnegie and Jaden Best six each, and Robbie Sims and Jaequan Williams five each.

Hoke won the women's game 57-18, one day after Southern scored its first victory of the season by defeating Ascend Leadership 36-26.

The Cavalier men have a week off before hosting Union Pines on Feb. 13. The Lady Cavaliers will host Ascend on Monday before facing the Lady Vikings the next day. The regular season end for both teams on Feb. 16 at Lee County.