Alice Drive boys, Chestnut Oaks girls win middle school titles

BY EDDIE LITAKER Special to The Sumter Item
Posted 2/11/18

The Sumter Middle School Conference basketball tournament came to a thrilling conclusion Saturday at the Lakewood High School gymnasium as both regular season champions came out victorious.

On the girls side, Chestnut Oaks trailed by 10 early in …

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Alice Drive boys, Chestnut Oaks girls win middle school titles

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The Sumter Middle School Conference basketball tournament came to a thrilling conclusion Saturday at the Lakewood High School gymnasium as both regular season champions came out victorious.

On the girls side, Chestnut Oaks trailed by 10 early in the fourth quarter with a 19-point fourth quarter before rallying to overtake Furman for a 33-30 win, while the boys game went into overtime before Alice Drive finally subdued Chestnut Oaks for a 49-42 victory.

The Lady Falcons entered the fourth quarter trailing the Lady Indians 20-14, and Furman stretched the lead to 10, 24-14, with 5:12 to go after a Tanaijah Wright basket. CO broke even at 28-28 on an Anti'Yona Roach low-post score. Roach, who scored 11 of her game-high 13 points in the final 3:15, put the Lady Falcons ahead at 31-30 with 42 seconds left. Tynashya Anthony added a score at the 12-second mark and CO came away with a late steal to seal the win.

"I just didn't want to let my coach down," said Roach, who will be moving on to Sumter High next season. "(The game plan late was) not to make stupid plays, to pass the ball (and play) team ball."

CO head coach Cedric Rembert, who earned SMSC girls coach of the year honors after leading his team to a 13-1 finish, was not surprised that his team fought back from a 10-point deficit to win.

"We've been down by 10 before and we had to fight back up, and we've got a bunch of fighters," Rembert said. "They don't quit, they don't give up at all, and we encourage them not to give up. Roach was in foul trouble early and she had four fouls, so I sat her. I made up my mind with about five minutes left in the game to put her in. I knew it could be a game-changer once she got in the game. I just needed to keep the game close by playing good defense. I had a flashback to the year before last when I lost by one and I refused, and I let them know, I refused to go down like that again. We just had to fight and we had to dig, and they dug deep, and it was a real good game."

While there was elation and celebration for the Lady Falcons, Furman head coach Demitria Wesley and her team had to deal with the disappointment of losing a game that they had in their grasp until it got away in the final two minutes.

"My girls, they came out strong. We were doing good from the start but we kind of got a little bit of pressure on us, we started to turn the ball over, the crowd kind of got into it and it kind of sucked the wind out of us just a little bit, but we fought hard," said Wesley, whose team finished its season at 11-2. "We missed some free throws at the end (2 of 8 over the final 2:33) that kind of cost us but overall I belive my girls played good. We just fell short at the end."

Wright, who will join Lakewood's junior varsity program next season, led the Lady Indians with 12 points.

"Tanaijah is one of our leaders. She normally scores a lot during the game," Wesley said. "I knew he (Rembert) was going to put a lot of pressure on her and I warned her about that before the game. She didn't get the ball as much as she likes but she still did good in the end."

Quanayzha Pearson added seven for CO while India Dowling-Green closed with eight for Furman.

In the boys title game, Alice Drive built an 11-4 lead after one quarter before Chestnut Oaks rallied to pull within two, 21-19, at the half. Kamaron Rodriguez scored all six of his points for CO in the second, hitting on 4 of 8 free throw attempts in the frame, while Joseph Durant scored nine in the half to lead AD.

Ryan McCants scored five of his nine points for the Hawks in the third but it was Zayveon Wells who had the hot hand for the Falcons, scoring nine in the final 2:38 of the quarter as CO trailed by one, 33-32, heading to the final six minutes of regulation play.

A Khail Peoples three to open the fourth gave the Falcons their first lead of the game, 35-33. The quarter would see four ties and two lead changes, with a McCants bucket on the post forging the final tie of regulation, 41-41, with 53 seconds to play.

The teams traded free throws to open the 3-minute extra period, but a Wells free throw with 2:11 to play would prove to be the last point of the game for CO as AD would score the game's final seven points to pull away.

"It was a back and forth game," said CO head coach Bryant Nelson, whose team closed with a 13-4 record. "Alice Drive jumped out and led, and they really put pressure on us in transition. In the second half, we were able to control it a little bit more and bring the game close. We had our opportunities down the stretch, just couldn't capitalize. I wish we could've ended the game in regulation. but the kids put up a good fight. Hats off to (AD head) coach (Pedro) Washington. He prepared them well and it was a good game."

Durant and Wells led their respective teams, with Durant leading all scorers with 20 and Wells topping the Falcons with 18.

"I just thank my coach for helping us get through this and my team for keeping my head up and not letting them down," Durant said. "We had to play defense and do what it takes to win the game."

Washington, who took home SMSC boys coach of the year honors after leading the Hawks to a 15-2 finish, could understand Durant's brevity following the game.

"He's probably tired. He had to log in a lot of minutes," Washington said. "First of all, my hat's off to Chestnut Oaks. They had a real good season this year and they came in with a game plan, ready to play today. I told my guys if we could rebound and not foul so much, but we kind of fell off on that part, but not foul so much and put them on the line that we would be fine for today. So we came out with a W and that's all I can ask for.

"At the end of the game I just wanted to limit it to one shot (for AD) so they couldn't have another chance at the end to go down and get something cheap. I knew the game plan coming in was to put pressure on their guards the whole game and hopefully they would make one or two mistakes at the latter part of the game, and it kind of worked out for us at the end. So I was proud of that."

Marquis Lane-Owens added eight for AD while Peoples closed with seven for CO.