It was appropriate that the WACH FOX 57 cameras were rolling at the Sumter High School gymnasium on Friday because the finish of the varsity boys contest between Sumter and Blythewood had to be seen to be believed.
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Trailing by as much as 15 points in a first half where the Gamecocks struggled to find the hoop at times, Sumter did not take its first lead until the 1:37 mark of the final period. Then, with the game tied and 1.3 seconds on the clock, Marcus Lane went to the free throw line for two shots.
After missing the first shot, Lane's second shot circled around and touched every part of the rim as time seemingly stood still before finally falling through the basket for the winning point in a 47-46 Region IV-5A win for the Gamecocks over the Bengals.
"That was a big shot," SHS head coach Bryan Brown said of Lane's game-winner. "I know it was tough for him but Marcus has been shooting the ball really well and I really believed that he was going to be able to knock the shot down. He hit a big three to give us momentum down the stretch and I knew he was in rhythm. I knew he'd be able to get one down for us."
The three to which Brown referred came after Sumter had tied the game for the first time, at 39-39, only to see the Bengals answer with the next five points. Lane then popped from long range to pull the Gamecocks back within two. Joseph Durant put Sumter on top for the first time, 45-44, with a 3-point play then stretched the lead to two with the back end of a 2-shot foul.
Blythewood's Emmanuel Richards missed what would have been a tying basket but Julian Phillips followed to make the score 46-46 with seven seconds left, setting the stage for Lane's heroics.
The Gamecocks trailed 26-11 before planting the seeds of their second half comeback with a Lane three and a low-post bucket from Joseph Durant to head to the locker room trailing by 10, 26-16.
"I just told them we needed to generate more offense," Brown said of his halftime talk. "I just thought that we passed up a lot of shots early and I knew that they were giving us open shots, and I think we were just trying to play the right way. We're working on making good decisions with the basketball, and in the second half we told them we needed to attack the rim, we'd started to get to the free throw line and our shots would start falling. In the second half, our shot fell for us and that's why we came out with the win."
With the win, both teams now stand at 14-10 overall and 3-3 in region play, tied for second place with two games remaining.
"It was huge, it was huge for this school and this community," Brown said of the win that was streamed live on WACH's digital and online platforms. "We had a lot of people to come out and support us, and to get that win not only for ourselves but for this community is big for us, because they supported us. We heard them, they were loud and their energy really pushed us through. We're going to need that energy, positive energy, and hope that they continue to support us."
Durant and Lane led the way for Sumter with 14 and 11 points, respectively, while Phillips topped all scorers with 20 points.
While the boys game had drama right down to the very end, the girls game was decided much earlier as Sumter got 28 points from Kiara Croskey in a 64-34 thumping of Blythewood.
"I told her when they came out and started playing that box-and-one on TB (Tamerah Brown, who was held to five points) I said somebody else has got to be able to step up and score some points," said SHS head coach Jeff Schaffer, "and she stepped up in a big way with 28. That was crucial for us."
Croskey hit two threes and converted on eight of 10 free throw attempts. Her most productive quarter was the second, when Croskey completed two 3-point plays among 10 points that would help Sumter expand a 14-7 first-quarter lead to 31-15 at halftime. Croskey's first 3-point play came at the 5:09 mark and represented the Lady Gamecocks' first points of the quarter.
Layken Cox added 16 for Sumter but came out late after a play in which Schaffer said it appeared she banged knees with a Blythewood player as both were going for the ball.
Kelly Morgan scored 11 and Emiya Gallman chipped in nine to pace the Lady Bengals, who dropped to 5-17 and 1-5.
Brown also received some long overdue recognition for passing the 1,000-point plateau. Brown passed the milestone in a 60-32 win at Blythewood on Jan. 21 but the Lady Gamecocks have been on the road for much of the time since then.
"We were just trying to wait until we got this game over here so she could be recognized in front of her own home fans," Schaffer said of the delayed recognition for Brown, who is now fast on the way to 1,200 points. "She's been our scorer all year long. She's done everything that I've asked her to do and I think when Lenoir-Rhyne gets her up there in college they're going to be pleasantly surprised at how well she can actually shoot the basketball from 3-point range. And when the younger kids see that, it kind of gives them something to strive for."
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