CAROLINA FOREST — You could call it a gantlet. Or you can call it opportunity.
The South Carolina Warriors prefer the latter.
The local ABA team defeated the Atlanta Aliens 121-117 on Sunday at the Carolina Forest Recreation Center, its second win over teams ranked in the league’s top 12 in as many days.
The Warriors, third in the ABA power rankings, got past a pesky Aliens squad a day after knocking off the Richmond (Va.) Elite, the league’s fifth-ranked team.
South Carolina won the games by a combined nine points, and on Sunday the Warriors had to come from behind, something they’re not used to.
“They hit a bunch of 3s, but you know, we were behind, but you find a way to win,” Warriors coach John Kefalas said. “You’ve got to play 48 minutes. Our kids played. Those wins are great wins. Basically what it does is shows the character of your team.”
Shaq Johnson had a game-high 35 points, Kellen Brand added 22 and former Coastal Carolina standout Jon Pack dominated the paint with 15 points and 22 rebounds.
The Warriors trailed by 11 at the half after being outscored 34-23 in the second quarter. South Carolina opened the second half with a solid third quarter, outscoring the Aliens 36-26 to draw within a point heading to the fourth quarter, where the Warriors finally pulled away.
“Our defense wasn’t solid. We’re not used to giving up 62 points in the first half,” Kefalas said. “The second half we tightened up a little bit.”
Pack, meanwhile, has emerged as the team’s key big man as Marquise Gainous and Matt Kendrick have left to pursue international opportunities.
“It makes your inside game much stronger” when a player dominates the paint like that,” Kefalas said.
Especially when you’re running the gantlet.