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Too much Raiders for Lee County

Feb. 13—The old saying is that death and taxes are the only things that are unavoidable. In the Sandhills Athletic Conference, you can add the Richmond Raiders to that list.

SAC football has gotten a break from them the past two seasons, in that while Richmond is still strong, it has nowhere near its usual juggernaut. However, in basketball, you might as well paint everything green and gold, because there is no stopping the Raiders.

Neither the Richmond men nor its women have lost a SAC game all season, and that didn't change Friday night, when the Raiders and seemingly half of Rockingham invaded the Peace Gym and won the women's game 60-30 and the men's game 92-40.

The good news for Lee is that Richmond is 4A, and 3A Lee County won't have to see them again if either team makes the state playoffs. The bad news is that they still had to face them Friday night.

The women's game saw Richmond (19-4, 11-0 SAC), ranked No. 5 in the NCHSAA 4A East RPI ratings, stifle the Lady Jackets' offense with quick hands and kept Lee from working the ball inside. Lee (9-9, 5-5) was held to just seven points in the first half.

Defensively, the Lady Jackets actually did solid job containing Richmond star Jamyia Lindsey, who got 23 points but shot just 9-24 from the floor to get them. The Lady Raiders as a team shot just 42%. The problem was that they also had 16 steals and often disrupted Lee to the point where it couldn't even execute its offense.

Because of Richmond's outstanding record and that of some of its opponents, the loss did not damage Lee's playoff prospects. The team remains 34th in the 3A East RPI and needs to pass two teams in its remaining games in order to make the field.

The men's game likely had no playoff implications at all. The Raiders (18-5, 11-0) are ranked No. 2 in the RPI and are not likely to overtake undefeated New Hanover for the top seed. As for Lee County, the Yellow Jackets are several spots away from an at-large position, and Southern Lee owns the automatic SAC 3A bid. If there was anything Lee wanted to get out of this game, it was simply to avoid a repeat of the game in Rockingham, where NC State recruit Paul McNeil Jr. dinged the Jackets for a state-record 71 points and the Raiders scored 118.

To Lee County's credit, it wasn't spooked by what had happened the first time. Richmond still has a huge manpower and experience edge and it still has McNeil, but the Jacket fans still cheered their team when it fell behind early and then responded to pull within 20-15 late in the first quarter.

Because of what happened in that first game, Lee focused on containing McNeil and did a decent job of it. The 6'6" forward had just eight points in the first half. The problem was that the Raiders have other weapons and used them. Center Braylon Barfield had 15 first-half points and guard JV Drake had 17.

The Raiders ended the first quarter on a run and led 32-17 when it was over, then pushed it to 59-25 with a dominant second half.

Nic Farrow, the only Jacket able to generate consistent offense against Richmond, hit two big shots including a 3-pointer to try to stave off a running clock after halftime. But McNeil finally solved the Lee defense and made five baskets in the third quarter alone, including a putback at the 3:49 mark for a 71-30 lead.

The final period was more or less garbage time, but no Jacket supporters will be sorry it was the final visit for McNeil to Lee County.

The Yellow Jackets will travel to Scotland on Tuesday night and then return home to complete the regular season against Southern Lee on Friday.