South Carolina Warriors pull away late for win over Palmetto State Rizers

dwetzel@thesunnews.comJanuary 26, 2013 

— In the fast-paced, high-scoring ABA, sometimes it's hard to slow it down.

However, sometimes it's necessary.

Just ask South Carolina Warriors coach John Kefalas.

“Like I told my players, there's a 24-second clock,” the coach said after his team's 126-103 win over the Palmetto State Rizers on Saturday night at the Carolina Forest Recreation Center.

Against the Rizers, the Warriors jumped out to a 13-4 lead in the first 3 1/2 minutes, but continually allowed a 20-plus lead evaporate into the low teens before again putting their foot on the gas.

“We played in spurts,” Kefalas said. “We weren't getting into our sets. Later in the game I called for them to get into the spread and we got good shots. They were using 23 seconds of the shot clock.”

The Warriors led 22-7 through about five minutes but were unable to push the lead any further before the half (67-52).

“Once we get a lead we get too comfortable,” said Lashun Watson, who had 22 points. “Instead of coming out and standing on their throat we let off the gas.”

At 16-1 on the season, the Warriors have found a way to win despite sometimes letting teams hang around. Yet, it is still a concern for Kefalas and Co.

“I think we play to the level of our competition sometimes,” said Mike Vogler, who had a game-high 28. “I think against the better teams we have a better mindset. Against the others, we've got to play hard 48 minutes.”

South Carolina opened the third quarter with a 10-0 run but once again allowed the Rizers a few runs that kept the game competitive until pulling away at the end of the frame.

“The key is really defense,” Watson said. “Coach preaches to us about team defense.”

The Warriors put the game away for good at the end of the third quarter on a run that was capped by back-to-back 3-pointers by Kellen Brand to end the frame with a 96-72 lead. Brand finished with 22.

“We've just got to get better in transition at matching up,” Vogler said. “They were getting a lot of shots in transition. Our offense is fine; we're going to score. We've just got to be better on defense.”

Overall, the learning process in these midseason games will only help going forward for a Warriors team that made it to the ABA Finals a year ago, Kefalas said.

“We just need to learn to protect a lead,” Kefalas said.

Contact DAVID WETZEL at 626-0295.

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