With postseason play creeping ever closer, every basketball game takes on relative importance.
For the four teams perched atop Region VI-3A, however, the playoffs have already begun.
Seeking favorable positioning in the upcoming Class 3A playoffs — if not a league title — the stakes could not be higher for the Loris and Waccamaw boys basketball team squads, each holding a similar goal, with the other standing in the way.
Yet with a little more than a minute left in the third period, the highly touted matchup between conference rivals had the look more of a mismatch, the Warriors seemingly pulling away after taking a 12-point lead.
While Loris boys basketball coach Adrain Grady did not know where a spark would derive, he was confident someone would help turn the tide in his team’s direction.
Who better than one of the Lions’ team captains to show them the way?
Senior forward Antron Smith helped ignite a Loris rally, allowing it to come away with a 51-39 victory over Waccamaw.
With a minute left in the third period, the Warriors led by a score of 35-23, and in firm control of the contest. Guard Lach Dancy’s had a large role in his team’s double-digit advantage, going on a personal 7-0 run that pushed his team out front.
From that point on, however, the Lions outscored their visitors from Pawleys Island by 28-4, using a suffocating defense and hot shooting from 3-point range to flip the game in their favor.
“(Waccamaw) is a real good team, so we expected a dog fight,” Grady said. “They beat Lake City on Friday, and I think that goes to show how deep our region is. On any given night, you have to bring your ‘A’ game for not three quarters, but four quarters to give yourself a chance to be successful.”
Not shooting all that well from deep range in the game, Smith helped turn the tide by knocking down a 3-pointer toward the end of the third. It would spark an 8-2 run to close the period, the Lions’ senior leader capping the flurry with a dunk that brought his teammates and fans in attendance to their feet.
“Coach just wanted us to keep pushing,” Smith said. “Most of our third quarters we’ve fought back. We started slow in this game, so it was all about getting back in a groove. ... I just wanted to get the game going, get (teammates) excited.”
And once this tide got rolling, nothing was going to stop it. Not even a talented Waccamaw squad that had proven up to the task for the better part of three quarters.
In the final eight minutes of play, the Warriors scored two points — neither of which came courtesy of a shot from the field.
“The fourth quarter ... once they seized momentum, and once they got it (Loris) never gave it back,” said Waccamaw boys basketball coach Mike Quinn. “We did everything we could to get back in it, but we did not execute, did not play under control and did not finish under the basket.
“That was the difference, we got good looks, but didn’t do anything with them. And they did.”
Smith scored a game-high 18 points. Two other Lions also finished in double figures as Bobby Gore had 12 points, while Travis Walters followed with 10 of his own.
Waccamaw was led by Jawan Bryant, who scored 15 points in a losing effort.
With the victory, the Lions officially punch their postseason ticket, in addition to taking sole possession of second place in Region VI-3A following Lake City’s loss to Dillon.
All the peripheral matters meant little to Grady, however. Instead, the Loris coach opted to think on the character his team showed, and who is responsible for it.
“Not only do we have a solid basketball team, but we have great kids ... and even better parents,” he said. “Since my time at Loris, some of these kids are the most well behaved, and that is a testament to their parents and how they were raised.”
WAC (39): Connor Heimberger 2, Jawan Bryant 15, Lach Dancy 12, Boomer Frank 4, Brandon Kowalewski 2, TyShawn Richardson 4.
LOR (51): Bobby Gore 12, Travis Walters 10, Antron Smith 18, Kavon Drayton 6, Derick Grisset 3, Darius Bellamy 2.
3-pointers: WAC 2 (Bryant, Dancy), LOR 5 (Gore 2, Smith, Drayton 2). Team fouls: WAC 17, LOR 13. Fouled out: None. Technical fouls: None. Records: WAC 13-8 (4-3 Region VI-3A), LOR 12-4 (5-2 Region VI-3A).
(At) Loris 56, Waccamaw 22: The Lions remained undefeated in Region VI-3A play, routing region foe Waccamaw.
Iklea Green and Neaundra Gause each reach double figures in the game, scoring 18 and 15 points, respectively.
WAC (22): Samirah Murray 2, Alexandra Jaouiche 2, Destiny Jackson 2, Aleah Bromell 4, Jasmine Hazel 2, Anna Franklin 10.
LOR (57): Tyniece Hemingway 4, Nysha Jackson 7, Neaundra Gause 15, Iklea Green 18, Aundrea Washington 2, Emma Ann Lay 4, Keioysha Davis 2, Lanise Harris 4.
3-pointers: WAC 0, LOR 5 (Jackson, Gause, I. Green 3). Team fouls: WAC 9, LOR 7. Fouled out: None. Technical fouls: None. Records: WAC 6-11 (2-5 Region VI-3A), LOR 15-7 (7-0 Region VI-3A).