Since building a state championship program at Gray Collegiate Academy, boys’ basketball head Dion Bethea has become accustomed to being “the hunted”.
Hartsville vs. A.C. Flora, 2:30 p.m.
(Third place game)
Cross Creek vs. J.F. Byrnes, 4 p.m.
T.L. Hanna vs. Westwood, 1 p.m.
(Third place game)
Ridge View vs. Gray Collegiate Academy, 5:30 p.m.
Westside (Ga.) vs. Lancaster, 7 p.m.
Since building a state championship program at Gray Collegiate Academy, boys basketball coach Dion Bethea has become accustomed to being “the hunted."
The latest team to actively challenge the defending Class 2A champions was Lancaster. The undefeated Bruins, ranked third in Class 4A, entered the American Bracket semifinal matchup at the Cayce Roundball Classic brimming with confidence, with guard Grayson Kirk caught on a video that appeared on social media verbally confronting Bethea for a game between the two teams.
Not only did Kirk get his wish, he and Lancaster made the most of the opportunity. His game-high 26 points helped the Bruins hold off Gray Collegiate 69-66.
The win improved Lancaster to 12-0 on the season, with six victories over five teams competing in the Classic. The list includes two wins over Hartsville, T.L. Hanna, Westwood and Ridge View, which faces Gray Collegiate Academy in the 5:30 p.m. third-place game on Dec. 23.
“All of those teams are well-coached teams,” Bruins head coach Jerron Cauthen said. “Those are some good teams that we played. I feel like my team is solid, too. We work hard, we practice hard … so the work that we put in throughout the summer, throughout the preseason, it’s showing now.”
Afterwards, Bethea credited the Bruins’ effort as his team trailed by as many as 15 points before a late rally within a point came short.
“Anytime we face anybody, they want to beat us and it just happened to be Lancaster’s day,” he said. “They wanted it more. They did a good job. We got into foul trouble a little bit there towards the end, but I liked the guys’ effort.”
With sizable fan support inside Bearcat Arena, an inspired Lancaster jumped out to an early advantage. With Kirk connecting on 7-9 three-pointers and the smaller Bruins more than holding their own under the board, out-rebounding Gray Collegiate 15-14 in the first half, they took a 42-27 halftime lead into the lockerroom.
“We were so nonchalant, so laid back like it was suppose to be given to us,” Bethea said. “At the end of the day, you’ve still got to work for everything that you get.”
Despite foul trouble, guard Montraivius White helped spark a second-half comeback. He finished with a team-high 20 points and led a 23-8 run to bring the War Eagles to within 54-50 with 3:41 left.
Mychael Mitchell, who finished with 18 points and five steals, and Avantae Parker, who had 11 and 12 rebounds, also contributed to the comeback. Despite missing free throws and Kirk getting held to one field goal in the second half, Lancaster continued to maintain its margin with timely layups.
A pair of three-pointers by Mitchell and White brought Gray Collegiate within 67-66 with 15 seconds left. Kirk was fouled with nine seconds left and made two free throws.
With six seconds left, Parker was intentionally fouled by the Bruins. He missed the free throw, but Gray Collegiate managed to get the rebound and found an open Devin Johnson behind the three-point arc.
Johnson’s attempt fell well short of the rim and Lancaster ran out the remaining seconds. It will now face Westside (Ga.) in the American Bracket final at 7 p.m.
“They were locked in,” Cauthen said about his team. “Grayson Kirk put out the challenge to Coach Bethea that we wanted the competition and in order to get to where we want to go, we’ve got to play against solid competition that’s going to get us better, which tonight they got us better.
"That’s a state championship team. That’s a state championship program, one that I aspire to be one day. It’s just like we’re putting together a puzzle, building a cake. We’re taking it one step at a time.”
In other Roundball Classsic action, Westside (Ga.) defeated Ridge View 70-52 led by Khalon Hudson with 22 points and 13 rebounds and Jalexs Ewing with 21 points.
It was the first loss in eight career games at Bearcat Arena for Blazers head coach Josh Staley. He had previously led A.C. Flora to tournament titles in 2019 and 2021.
Due to weather concerns during travel, the National Bracket final was cancelled between Hiram (Ga.) and North Augusta.
The Hornets routed Cross Creek (Ga.) 59-39 led by Chase Tyler with 32 points and eight rebounds, while the Yellow Jackets defeated J.F. Byrnes 69-59 behind Daron Dunbar’s 17 points.
Arden Conyers scored 25 points and grabbed five rebounds to lead the Redhawks.
Jaquarious Patterson scored 32 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, Javeyn Martin had 16 points and Adrius Armstrong finished with 12 to lead the Yellow Jackets.
Darius Bailem led the Patriots with 15 points and Knick Pickering finished with 14 points.
Christopher Parker scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and Ry’Nee Maxwell-Times had 19 as the Falcon duo combined to outscore the Silver Foxes.
Kenyatta Smith and Elijah Sessions each had seven points for Dutch Fork.
A go-ahead basket with 14 seconds left enabled the Red Foxes to complete a comeback from 15 points down to defeat the Blue Devils.
Kameron Foman led Hartsville with 18 points and 16 rebounds and Xavion Robinson and Jermaal Brown each had 11 points. Ryan Lominack led Dreher with 17 points, Martaz Ownes had 11 points and Austin Glasscho grabbed 13 rebounds.
The Timberwolves fall in the 2022 Border Classic.
Caymen Collins scored 28 points and made the All-Tournament team at the Shootout at the Sea at North Myrtle Beach High School. The Eagles placed fourth at the tournament.
Cam Scott scored a game-high 33 points as the top-ranked Wildcats lost at the Alpha Invitational.
Jaden Tucker scored a game-high 26 points to lead the Lady Gators at the Y.C. Winborn Holiday Tournament in Rock Hill.
River Bluff (6-6) next faces Indian Land at 9 a.m. on Dec. 23.
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