29-0! Lexington boys make school history in reaching Lower State final
Tuesday was an evening filled of milestones for the 2018-19 Lexington boys’ basketball team.
Defeating Conway 61-49 in the 3rd round of the Class 5A playoffs did more than advance the Wildcats to the Lower State finals for the first time in 7 years.
In improving to 29-0, they broke the school record for consecutive victories set between the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons. This was also career win 637 for Lexington head coach Bailey Harris, tying him with Chip Atkins for 6th all-time in S.C. High School League career coaching wins.
Only Irmo’s Tim Whipple and Calhoun County’s Zam Fredrick have more victories among active coaches than Harris.
“It’s just unbelievable,” he said. “This group of guys that won 14 games last year. The same group of guys and they’ve gotten themselves in the Final Four.”
Senior guard Mason Carver led Lexington with 20 points. After Lexington scored the first 7 points of the contest, he brought the standing-room-only crowd at Wildcat Gymnasium to its feet with a 2-handed slam dunk off an alley-oop pass from point guard Ryan Green.
“We had that play all year, but we never ran it,” said Green, who finished with 13 points and 5 assists. “But, I guess that’s what was the call. I put it up there for (Carver) to get it.”
Also getting production from senior Bradley Foulks, who finished with 11 points, Lexington extended its lead as many as 19 points, before the Tigers scored the final 5 points of the first half. James Bellamy hit a 3-pointer as time expired to cut Lexington’s lead to 27-14 at halftime.
Conway carried over the momentum into the second half and closed the gap to 8 points. A 3-pointer by Jonathan Corley, who finished with 10 points, helped push Lexington’s lead back to double digits at 34-23 with less than 4 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.
Green added a layup and 3-pointer during the 14-2 run to end the period and give the Wildcats a 45-25 lead entering the 4th quarter.
As Lexington took its biggest lead at 49-25 early in the 4th quarter, fans began to celebrate. The Tigers had other ideas, embarking on a 17-2 run to close the gap to 51-42.
Forward Terrell Hemingway scored 11 of his 15 points during the 4th quarter rally and guard Tim Steele added 9 of his 14 points.
Carver answered again by converting a twisting layup as he was fouled. The All-State guard and Region 5-5A Player of the Year added the free throw with 1:19 left to temporarily stop the Tigers’ momentum.
Conway got no closer than 9 points the rest of the way. Following the historic win, Lexington held a net-cutting ceremony on both baskets.
The win sets up a Lexington High School doubleheader Saturday at the Florence Civic Center. The Lady Wildcats will face top-ranked Goose Creek in the girls’ Class 5A Lower State final at 5 p.m., followed at 6:30 p.m. by the Wildcats against Berkeley (26-1). The Stags defeated West Ashley 72-52 to set up the first meeting between the 2 schools since the 1st round of the 2009-10 Class 4A playoffs.
Lexington won 91-74 and went on to win the Lower State title before losing to Gaffney in the state final.
S.C. HIGH SCHOOL LEAGUE CLASS 5A LOWER STATE FINALS
(at Florence Civic Center in Florence)
Goose Creek (21-1) vs. Lexington (24-4) 5 p.m.
Berkeley (26-1) vs. Lexington (29-0) 6:30 p.m.