The Bates Middle School boys basketball team made it through the Sumter Middle School Conference regular season unscathed, earning head coach Richard Parks coach of the year honors after a 14-0 finish.
Rival Alice Drive Middle School, which had …
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Rival Alice Drive Middle School, which had come up just short in two previous meetings with its crosstown rival, decided to play the role of spoiler on Saturday as the teams met for the SMSC tournament championship at Sumter High School, using a 13-5 fourth-quarter advantage to break open a close game and pull away for a 40-29 victory.
"We knew in both of the previous games that we were close," said ADMS head coach Pedro Washington, whose team closed out its season with a 15-2 record. "We were right there, just a few mental mistakes, and both of the games could have gone either way. But I told my guys to just lock in, stay focused, do the little things right and we'd come out with a victory, and we did that. But also I just want to give credit to Bates for having a great season. It was one of those things to where it brings back the rivalry in the Sumter School District, so it's good to see."
For a while it seemed the game could come down to a final possession or last-second shot as the lead was swapped back and forth five times, along with three ties. Bates led by five, 18-13, after converting all four shots of a foul and technical call late in the first half but ADMS answered with two buckets to forge the game's final tie before an AJ Bracey free throw gave the Bantams a 19-18 halftime lead.
Three of the lead changes occurred in the third quarter before buckets by Quantez Jenkins and Brandon Oliver contributed to what would be a 10-0 Hawks run over two periods. ADMS led 27-24 heading to the fourth and expanded that lead to eight, 32-24, before a Zyeir Gamble steal and layup with 2:30 to go broke a more than 6-minute -- the equivalent of one full middle school quarter -- scoring drought for the Bantams. Bates would score only once more, on a Jenkins 3-point basket with 38 seconds to go, and the Hawks would ice the game with 7 of 10 shooting at the free throw line over the final quarter.
"They had a couple of guys in foul trouble early, and so did I, but I just told my guys to be aggressive with the ball," said Washington, whose teams have claimed the SMSC tournament title in four of the past five seasons. "Protect it and be aggressive and they (Bates) would make those fouls, and we just had to step up to the line and make our foul shots. Marquis Lane(-Owens) stepped up and made some big ones. We struggled early in the season (at the line) but we're getting better, and we peaked at the right time."
Parks was disappointed in the finish for his team but still quite proud of its accomplishments in completing an undefeated regular season.
"My starting five have got a high basketball IQ and they gelled well together, they played well together," Parks said. "I can give them schemes and they'll just run it, and it's really a joy to coach kids like that. I hate that we ended on a note like this. I thought we had it, but they played better than we did today."
Lane-Owens led the Hawks with 15 points, including 5-for-8 at the line, while Gamble's nine points topped the Bantams.
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