The McDowell Titan coaching staff counted on Scotland County to play tough, man-to-man defense and exercise an unusually high level of patience on the offensive end, and, as a result, were prepared for those eventualities.
But they couldn’t have counted on Scotland’s Niem Ratliffe going absolutely bananas.
Ratliffe scored 25 of his 38 points in the first half, and the Fighting Scots (19-8) went on to a 77-52 win over the Titans (21-7) Thursday in a second-round State 4A Playoff game that was actually much closer than the final would seem to indicate.
Ratliffe, a 5-foot-10 senior guard, hit five 3-pointers in the first quarter and seven in the first half as the 12th-seeded Scots built a 44-30 halftime lead. McDowell, the fifth seed, got within 50-40 at the end of three quarters, but Scotland outscored the Titans 27-12 in the final eight minutes – behind 11 more from Ratliffe – to account for the lopsided final.
The loss put an end to an otherwise outstanding year for the Titans, whose seniors became just the third group in school history to post back-to-back 20-win seasons, going 46-10 in that span.
Still, that fact made it no easier to accept.
“I don’t think we lost or we blew it tonight,” said McDowell head coach Brian Franklin. “We just got beat by a better team. If we played them again, it might be a different outcome, but tonight, they were better than us. Our kids played hard and they were ready to go, but they just beat us. I’ve got a roomful of kids in there who are disappointed that it’s over, especially the eight seniors. It’s tough for me too.”
The high-scoring Titans never found their footing offensively against the Scots and shot just 38 percent (18-of-48) from the floor. Scotland shot an even 50 percent (30-of-60), including a 55-percent showing in the first half and a 10-of-15 first quarter. Ratliffe went 15-of-22.
Senior wing Skyler McKinney (8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks) led the way with 14 points, passing the 1,000-point mark for his career in the process. Post Travis Corpening (7 rebounds) added 12, but no one else hit double figures.
Guards Kevin Silver (7 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists) and Antoine Lindsey (8 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists) were each hounded by a number of defenders all night, and combined to shoot just 2-of-11 from 3-point range.
The Titans were within 11-10 when Caden Davis buried a triple off an inside-out Corpening assist with 4:35 left in the first quarter.
The Scotland sharpshooter nailed four triples in the next 1:57 of game time against McDowell’s zone. The string of long bombs was interrupted briefly by a follow basket from Corpening, but when the smoke cleared, the visitors led 23-12.
McDowell could never cut into the lead significantly afterward.
As a team, Scotland went 10-of-20 from 3-point range in the opening half.
“I had seen three different games of film on them, and we knew they were very athletic and could drive it off and get it to the hole,” said Franklin. “In none of those three games did they shoot it particularly well from the perimeter. So our game plan going in was we’ve got to stop penetration and keep it out of the middle of the lane, contest 3s and rebound. We didn’t get to rebound many in the first half because they didn’t miss. They shot it unreal in the first half. In the second half, we go man and they got to the basket.”
The Titans pulled back within single digits at 48-39 on Corpening’s put-back with 1:25 to go in the third, but Scotland’s Tre Dixon answered with a drive and finish in the lane to stretch it back to 50-39.
Franklin said the Scots’ defense was a deciding factor.
“I think the biggest thing was, they locked us down defensively,” said Franklin. “They keyed on Antoine and Kevin and weren’t going to give them any open looks. They’re athletic and they’re all about the same size so they can switch those screens. I was really impressed with them. They’re very unselfish and they played smart.”
Scotland advances to the third round where they will host No. 13 Butler Saturday night.
Notes: McKinney finishes his three-year varsity career with 1,005 points…The 1995-96 and 1996-97 Titans went 47-9 in two years; the 2006-07 and 2007-08 Titans were 48-12…Thursday’s game was the highest scoring of the year for the Scots, who have hit the 70-point mark just twice.
Scotland (77) Justin McRae 2-6 2-2 7, Bruce Wall 2-2 0-0 4, Janoah McRae 1-5 0-0 3, Isaiah Bostick 5-13 0-0 11, Niem Ratliffe 15-22 1-3 38, Brenton Thomas 1-3 0-0 3, Tre Dixon 1-2 0-0 2, Garrett McRae 0-2 2-2 2, Quinton Covinton 0-2 0-0 0, Adonis Jackson 2-2 0-0 5. Totals: 30-60 5-7 77.
McDowell (52) Skyler McKinney 3-8 6-7 14, Caden Davis 2-4 0-0 5, Travis Corpening 6-13 0-0 12, Antoine Lindsey 2-9 3-4 8, Kevin Silver 3-10 0-1 7, Dylan McRary 0-0 0-0 0, J.C. Olivo 0-1 1-2 1, Adam Randolph 1-1 0-2 2, Jordan Kehler 0-0 0-0 0, Cole England 1-2 0-0 2, Nick Grande 1-2 0-0 2. Totals: 18-48 11-18 52.
Scotland 27 17 06 27 – 77
McDowell 19 11 10 12 – 52
Rebounds: SC (32) McDowell (28) Rebound leaders: SC (J. McRae 7) McDowell (McKinney 8) 3-point goals: SC (12-33) McDowell (5-18) SC (J. McRae, Ja. McRae, Bostick 1-5, Ratliffe 7-13 Thomas 1-3, Covinton 0-1, Jackson 1-1) McDowell (Silver 1-5, Lindsey 1-6, McKinney 2-5, Davis 1-1, Olivo 0-1) McDowell assist leaders: (Silver, Lindsey, McKinney 2) McDowell steals leaders: (Davis 1) McDowell blocked shot leaders: (McKinney 2) Turnovers: SC (9) McDowell (12)
McDowell Titans head coach Brian Franklin on the Titans’ season:
“Every group is special to you, but this group is really special. They’ve had a great career here at McDowell High School. Their varsity years, Skyler and Kevin that’s three years and the rest of them the last two years, what a great run they’ve had and how well they’ve played. A lot of them have grown up. They’ve still got some growing to do, but they’ve grown up a lot and I think they’ve been tremendous representatives of our school and our community with the way they’ve carried themselves – not because they win 25 games or 21 games or because they make a lot of 3s – but because of the way they handled themselves. I think the community really got behind them because of the way they played; we had some smaller kids, and the guys are just likeable. I’m going to miss having them here. The best thing about them is as good as they are as players, they’re much better as people. I look forward to seeing what they do when they get out of this place. I have high expectations for those eight young men (Antoine Lindsey, Kevin Silver, Skyler McKinney, Travis Corpening, Caden Davis, Jordan Kehler, Nick Grande, Cole England). It’s easy for me, and the three coaches (Joe Cash, Allen Tate, Turner Kincaid) who are all former Titans to say, but even as old men, they’re going to look back with pride on what they accomplished. These guys have got a bond that’s hard for just the regular kid in high school to get because they’ve spent so much time together, and they’ve been at times in a high-stress situation with practice and a coach getting on them, but they’ve got a bond that’s something nobody will ever be able to take away from them. I’m proud of all of them. A lot of the guys in there are upset because it means something to them and they care about it so much. Those seniors, just like last year’s seniors, have shown the ones underneath them what it takes to really be good and to win and be a good team.”