Phenom scores 51 as Spartanburg Day earns championship

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The Zion Show concluded its 2016-17 run on Saturday at Sumter County Civic Center and its star ended the season on a high note.

Spartanburg Day School phenom Zion Williamson, a 6-foot-6-inch junior who can play any position on the floor with much proficiency, scored 51 points to lead the Griffins to a 76-51 victory over Christian Academy.

"Zion is the type of player that, he is not going to let his team lose if he can help it," said SDS head coach Lee Sartor, whose team finished with a 29-6 record, including a 21-1 mark against teams from South Carolina. "He just did what he had to do. I thought the game was real physical with them but, as usual, he keeps his composure and he just keeps moving forward and just making play after play."

Williamson added nine rebounds, three blocked shots and two assists to his final tally as the Griffins won a second consecutive state championship. In last year's title game, an 80-57 win over Bethesda Academy, Williamson ended with 33 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks.

The highlight reel shot for the 16-year-old Williamson came late in the fourth quarter on a windmill dunk. That slam made up for one that he missed on a breakaway opportunity after a steal early in the second quarter.

"Of course, I do want to excite the crowd," Williamson said of the dunks, "but I still want to win the game and stick to the parameters of my game. I embrace (the celebrity status) because I've been training for this since I was 4 (years old)."

Williamson scored all of his team's opening-quarter points as the Griffins led 13-8 after one. By halftime, it was 31-16, with Williamson's point total sitting at 21. Williamson would score 16 of his team's 19 third-quarter points and 14 in a 26-point SDS fourth quarter.

While everybody was expecting the spectacular dunks from Williamson, it was fellow junior Chandler Lindsey, a 6-2 guard, that closed the game with three slams and 11 points.

"I think every team's goal is to not be on YouTube, so when Zion gets the ball at midcourt people are running under him and holding him," Sartor said. "I don't get it, but I do get it. I think I'd teach my kids to have good transition defense, versus stopping someone from going in and scoring."

Williamson, who has drawn comparisons to his favorite National Basketball Association star, LeBron James, stressed that SDS is more than a 1-man team.

"A lot of people on social media think it's just me on this team, but it's not," he said. "Basketball is a 5-man sport and I've got to give a shout to Chandler Lindsey. He got him one tonight and I liked it. I loved it!"

The Saints, who closed with a 20-10 record, were whistled for three intentional fouls while trying to defend Williamson. Three CA players fouled out, mainly in efforts to stall the SDS star. Williamson closed the game hitting on 18 of 23 free throw attempts.

"I missed a lot of free throws in the final four," Williamson said of a 77-72 nailbiter against Trinity-Byrnes in the 2A semifinals. "In our last practice, all I did was shoot free throws. That's what made me get 51."

Two of Williamson's three blocks were quite thunderous, but the star was also called for two goaltending penalties as his pursuit was just slightly behind schedule.

The scary aspect for the rest of SCISA 2A is that, barring any changes, Williamson and the rest of this year's SDS team will all be back next season, likely meaning a return engagement for The Zion Show in the championship round.

"We've got everybody back," Sartor said. "The thing about this bunch is they like each other and they love the game of basketball. They all probably will be somewhere playing basketball tomorrow."

Williamson called the team coming back intact next season "perfect" and said he is excited about pursuing a third state championship ring in his senior season.

Mike Green and Bryce Schneider scored 15 apiece for the Saints.