Lower Richland boys basketball coach Caleb Gaither knew the Diamonds didn’t have their best effort in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs against North Myrtle Beach.
The second-seeded Diamonds used a big second quarter to take control and then held on for a 62-52 victory over the pesky and youthful Chiefs. Lower Richland will travel to Lakewood, a 92-59 winner over Hilton Head, on Saturday.
“It certainly wasn’t one of the best games we’ve played but it’s all about advancing at this time of the year,” Gaither said. “We understand we have to play much better going forward if we want to keep playing.”
Clemson signee Clyde Trapp finished with 24 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks for Lower Richland (17-4). Ja’Cor Nelson added 16 points, 10 rebounds and four assists and Tevaughn Higgins chipped in with 14 points as the Diamonds’ starters accounted for all of the points.
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“We started a little bit slow but the only thing that matters in the playoffs is we were able to advance,” Trapp said. “We settled for jump shots instead of attacking the basket so that’s something we have to work on.”
The second quarter turned out to be the difference. It was back-and-forth in the first quarter when the Diamonds finished the period with a 15-14 lead.
That’s when Trapp and Nelson took control. Trapp connected on two of his four 3-pointers in the quarter in scoring 10 points. Nelson added four and Higgins knocked down another 3-pointer. Lower Richland outscored the Chiefs 17-4 in the quarter to take a 32-18 lead at the half.
North Myrtle Beach (9-12) went 1-of-8 from the field with six turnovers in the quarter.
“We got in the passing lanes and was able to disrupt them some in the second quarter,” Gaither said. “That allowed us to get out and run and turn our defense into easy baskets on the offensive end.”
Trapp said that the energy level picked up some in the decisive second quarter.
“We used our defense to get the offense going,” he said. “We picked up the intensity and really worked on the defensive end.”
Despite having a 14-point lead at the half, Lower Richland couldn’t put the Chiefs completely away. The lead grew to as many as 17 points but North Myrtle Beach trimmed it to eight points with 1:29 to play. Higgins made two free throw at the 1:18 mark to push it back to double digits.
The Diamonds know they will have to play much better against a talented Lakewood team on the road Saturday night.
“That’s the next team up but we know we have to be ready from the start,” Trapp said. “We’ll practice the next few days and hopefully come out and play our best game on Saturday.”
Tyron Stockdale led North Myrtle Beach with 16 points and PJ Kelly added 11.