CHERAW — The winner of the Richmond Senior-Cheraw contest was going to be the survivor of the slugfest between the two teams.
With each team losing players to fouls and injuries, the final moments came down to a mix of starters and reverse players. In the end, Cheraw was able to squeeze a few more plays out of its reserves to pull out a 95-91 victory Wednesday night.
“We saw some of their kids breathing heavy a little bit and I told them we were going to press them back,” Cheraw coach Jacob Smith said. “We were blessed it worked out tonight.”
Richmond (1-1) took an 87-86 lead on a putback by Michael Ellington on a miss by C.J. McDaniel with 1:40 left in the game. After a backcourt violation on Cheraw, Richmond (N.C.) had an opportunity to stretch its lead, but McDaniel misfired on a 3-point attempt.
The Braves (1-0) responded to take the lead for good on Raekwon Ellerbe’s layup off of McDaniel’s miss. Cheraw added to its lead as Zach Sellers completed an old-fashioned 3-point play off a Richmond turnover to seize a 91-87 lead.
Richmond pulled back to within a basket as Malik Flowers drained a runner on the baseline with 52 seconds remaining in the game. Cheraw once again quickly responded nine seconds later as Ellerbe connected on another layup to extend the lead back to four.
The Raiders turned the ball over on their next possession and were forced to foul. Kemonte Pratt hit both free throws to stretch the Braves’ advantage to 95-89 with 33.5 seconds left to effectively ice the game.
J.T. Reddick hit a driving layup with five seconds left to account for the final score.
Ellerbe finished with nine points and Pratt added 10 off the bench for Cheraw. Smith was pleasantly surprised to have both players contributing to the victory.
“We went deep down on our bench tonight,” Smith said. “Those guys were able to hit some layups and knock down some free throws for us.”
Foul trouble saddled Richmond’s ability to effectively use its new style of play. Jaylan Terry fouled out with just over a minute left in the second quarter. Leon Zeigler joined Terry on the bench midway through the third quarter. Also fouling out for Richmond were De’Oliver Smith and Brandon Terry. Wells Griffin suffered an injury in the first half and didn’t return.
“It’s a learning process,” Richmond coach David Laton said. “We have to learn to move our feet and be in better position. We have to be smarter.”
Zeigler finished with a team-high 22 points, including a stretch in the opening moments of the third quarter when he outscored Cheraw 10-2. Zeigler hit three 3-point field goals, including being fouled on one and converting the rare 4-point play.
Lavell Ellerbe added 19 in the loss and McDaniel chipped in 10. Terry netted nine before fouling out.
“If we don’t get in foul trouble, it’s a totally different game,” Laton said.
The Braves were paced by Dalvin Taylor’s 25 points. Sellers scored 24 and Jamel Williams chipped in with 10.
Reach managing editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 and follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.