With a 4-point lead late and victory seemingly in its grasp, Sumter High School's varsity boys basketball team allowed Lugoff-Elgin to tie the game in the dying seconds of regulation and carry that momentum into overtime to claim a 62-56 win in the Region IV-5A opener for both teams.
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Chalk this one up as another learning experience for a young squad.
"I think we allowed the game to get away from us," said Sumter head coach Bryan Brown, whose team dropped to 10-8 on the season. "We had a couple of guys in foul trouble, so our lineup got screwed up, and we had some people playing out of position. I think the main thing is we've got to learn how to fight through adversity when things get tough. We've just got to learn how to win big games in region play."
The Gamecocks, who had led by as many as 11 in the first half, were clinging to a 25-19 advantage at the half. The lead was still six, 34-28, after a Leslie Owens 3-point basket at the 3:15 mark of the third quarter before the Demons closed the period on a 7-2 run to trail by one, 36-35, heading into the final eight minutes.
Sumter never lost the lead in the final quarter, though L-E pulled even on four occasions. Another Owens bucket with 2:23 remaining pushed the lead to four, 50-46, before an odd sequence on the defensive end of the floor. Jordan Williams hit a free throw line jumper to cut the lead to two, but teammate Jaylin Brunson was whistled for an offensive foul following the made basket. That foul sent Owens to the line, where he hit on one of two shots to stretch the lead back to three.
A Devante Johnson trey tied the score at 51-51 before regulation closed with a Nakeem Isaac basket with 30 seconds on the clock and a tying Brunson tip-in as time was running out.
L-E won the overtime tip and capitalized with a Maurice Haymon low post bucket to take its first lead since 7-6 at the 2:29 mark of the opening quarter. Sumter would tie on a Marcus Lane basket set up by a Jaden McCants steal, but the Gamecocks stalled from there. The Demons would take the lead for good with another Brunson bucket and put the game away at the free throw line as Johnson, who scored a game-high 22 points, hit on three of six attempts and Haymon drained two with 15 seconds left to push the lead to seven.
"I think that they (Lugoff-Elgin) wanted to win more than we did, and I don't think that we came in with the right mindset to finish that game," Brown said. "We just didn't have the right mindset going into overtime and the whole end of regulation. We've just got to be mentally ready, especially when you're in region play. I think it's attributed to our youth. Guys haven't played games (with) this level of importance. ... I think it's still a learning curve for us. I still feel like we're going to be fine, and we'll find a way to dig ourselves out of this hole that we've put ourselves in."
Isaac's 15 points led Sumter in scoring followed by Owens with 14 and Devin Boston with 12.
Jermaine Nelson closed with 11 for the Demons, who improved to 4-13 overall.
While there was plenty of drama in the boys game, the only drama in the girls game was if and when Lugoff-Elgin would score and if the Lady Demons would make it into double digits before the end of the game.
The Lady Gamecocks kept L-E off the board for nearly 2 ½ quarters, building a 32-0 lead in the process, before Mikian Duncan hit a left-side jumper with 4:25 to go in the third period. The Lady Demons, who trailed 39-6 after three quarters, had their chances to break into double figures in the final minute, but Lanique Moore missed two free throws with 48 seconds to go and Aareyanna McCall came up short on a jumper from the left as time expired in a 54-9 Sumter romp.
"I told the girls before the game started that you had that big game against Crestwood (a 48-43 home win on Friday) and the emotions were really high, so the tendency is to come back and play down, and I thought that's kind of what we did tonight," said SHS head coach Jeff Schaffer, whose team moved to 14-2 on the season. "Luckily we were able to get out and get some defensive pressure on them and create some easy turnovers. We didn't play very well offensively, but defensively I thought we played pretty good in the first half. It was one of those games that you typically play after a big game, so we were trying to just get through it and keep the forward momentum going."
The Lady Gamecock starters build a 19-0 first-quarter edge, allowing Schaffer to work in some reserves in the second quarter. While his team managed just five points over that 8-minute span, Scahffer was pleased with the effort.
"We substituted a little bit and I've got a bunch of young kids that are filling in coming in off the bench, and that's just inexperience," Schaffer said. "That was part of it, and getting those kids playing time is really, really important because we need that playing time for the playoffs. So I can live with that a little bit in a game situation like this."
One of those younger players, Alicia Spann, scored 10 points to join starters Tamerah Brown and Layken Cox in double figures. Brown closed with 15 points while Cox had 12.
"Alicia Spann did a great job. She came in off the bench, and she's only a sophomore so she's just going to get better and better," Schaffer said. "That's going to be really important, especially next year, because she and Layken are going to be our post players. Inga Colclough came in off the bench, got a couple of really good rebounds and hit that nice 3 on the baseline, so it was good to see her being able to shoot some shots and make some things. We played everybody, so everybody got in there and contributed to the success, and that's what we're trying to build on. It would be nice to go eight or nine players deep, but we're just not right there yet."
The Sumter girls will compete against Dreher on Saturday at Eau Claire High School's Martin Luther King Jr. Bash before returning to region play along with the boys at Blythewood on Tuesday.
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