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Hodge: Fans shouldn’t be discouraged following Scotland men’s basketball’s down season | Laurinburg Exchange

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Winning makes everything better. Players and coaches execute their roles with confidence. And fans have a greater joy in watching their team play.

But when the wins aren’t stacking up, the excitement isn’t there. To re-establish it, optimism needs to be within and surround a program.

The Scotland men’s basketball team went 9-17 with a 4-9 record in Sandhills Athletic Conference play to finish fifth out of seven teams. The Fighting Scots’ RPI ranking of 29th in the 3A East Region helped them make the state playoffs for the second straight year as a No. 28 seed. But their run was short-lived after No. 5 South Central defeated them 76-54 in the first round.

“I think in that playoff game, if the game’s officiated in the first half in a much more professional way, I think we may have a lead going in the half there,” Scotland coach Michael Malpass said. “I really think that game could have went down to the fourth quarter. But I felt like the referees dictated some things because at the half in that game, John (Graham), Quez (Caldwell) and Dylan (Lampley) all had three fouls apiece. And it’s really hard to play when you’re thin, and your leaders are all having to play tentative.”

After going 19-9 last year, a down year for Scotland can be discouraging for fans — but the future offers a lot to look forward to.

“What we’re going to try to do this offseason is get our middle school programs involved more in our skill development and also trying to develop a scheme that all of our kids, our young guys every time they’re here at the high school, can rep and understand and try to develop our skill out of something that can enhance their ability to run an offense but have the skill set within the offense to develop,” Malpass said.

With a new process for the future, it doesn’t come without mentioning the fact that two underclassmen — freshman guard Jerrison Dixon (5.9 points, 2.9 rebounds averaged in 18 games) and sophomore guard Shylan Harrell (9.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.3 steals in 16 games, which excludes playoff game against South Central) — played significant minutes throughout the year, only furthering their development.

Dixon and Harrell were on the JV team but called up after the numbers on Scotland’s varsity roster became thin due to players leaving the team. By the last game, only six players that averaged over 10 minutes a game remained.

“I think the kids that stayed the course learned that change is something that none of us like, but it’s a reality in life,” Malpass said. “And while change occurs, you have to adapt. So I think the kids that stayed the course learned that things from day to day won’t always be the same, but you react to what you can control and not what is out of your control.”

Out of the compact bunch, Caldwell (13.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.1 steals in 24 games), a senior guard freshly named to the Sandhills Athletic All-Conference team , was the leader in average points, assists and steals in 24 games. Lampley (12.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.4 steals in 26 games), a senior guard, Graham (7.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.2 blocks in 25 games, excluding the playoffs), a senior forward, and junior guard Brady Fowler (3.6 points, 3.5 rebounds in 25 games, excluding the playoffs) were also contributors for the Scots.

“Just super proud of Dylan Lampley and Jaiquez Caldwell and Johnathon Graham for not only finishing the season but helping the young guys develop and being big brothers to them at times,” Malpass said. “But we’re like any other family; there were still dysfunctional moments. But for the most part, I thought those guys led our young guys well.”

Malpass also believes his three seniors will have a good chance at continuing their basketball careers.

“The goal for our seniors is to find a home for Jaiquez and Dylan and Johnathon if there’s an opportunity for them to continue to play at the next level, whether it be a prep school or a collegiate setting,” he said.

Players expected to return next year for the Scots include freshman guard Tomek McFadden, freshman wing Javeer Paisley, sophomore guard Carter Williams and sophomore wing LeSean Pittman, who all saw a majority of their playing time on the JV team.

“I think our biggest takeaway with our returners is to try to get our middle schools involved in the offseason,” Malpass said. “That’s our goal.”

Brandon Hodge is the sports editor for The Laurinburg Exchange. He can be reached at 910-506-3171 or by email at [email protected]. Follow him on X/Twitter at @BrandonHSports.

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