Not all fairytales wind up with happy endings.
Earning a pair of hard-fought wins on the road, the Socastee girls basketball team seemed destined to add another Monday night to its storybook run through the Lower State 5A playoffs.
Conway wasn’t interested in becoming a footnote, however. It had history to make all its own.
Unable to sniff the lead until midway through the fourth quarter, the Tigers held on to claim a berth in Saturday’s Lower State 5A final with a 33-27 win over Socastee.
“Words cannot explain,” said Conway girls basketball coach Shamae Hemingway. “I’m very excited. We knew it would be a tough game … it’s hard three times (to beat Socastee in a season).
“They stayed in it. One of the key things I said to them was heart … you got to have heart.”
The Tigers will meet top-ranked Goose Creek on Saturday at the Florence Civic Center. Tip-off is slated for approximately 5 p.m.
Early on, it was Socastee that was the aggressor. In particular senior standout Shayla Baldwin, whose six points helped stake the Braves to a 10-2 advantage after a quarter of play.
Accustomed to playing in tight games, Conway did not crumble under the pressure of such a high-stakes matchup.
“I wanted to win,” said Tigers senior Zakera Chadmon. “I didn’t want to go home. I knew I needed to turn up my game.”
Little by little, Conway would claw back into the contest. Though unable to completely crack the Socastee zone, Chadmon and all-state performer Lenaejha Evans knocked down shots from the outside, pulling their squad to within three points at the break, 14-11.
An evenly played third period would yield one-point advantage for the Braves at stanza’s end, 24-23. But as the game moved into its final act, a once freely flowing spigot of points suddenly went dry for coach Kelly Lewis’ squad.
“(Conway’s) man defense was great,” the Socastee girls basketball coach said. “That’s really what got them here, was their defensive intensity. Particularly their man defense, they are as tough and physical a team as we faced all year. We knew that coming in.”
The Braves would manage only a Jadan Jones jumper and a free throw by Baldwin in the fourth period. Though not necessarily lighting it up on the other end of the floor, Conway would do just enough to get to the winner’s circle — and a date in Florence.
A pair of Evans free throws would give the Tigers a lead they would not relinquish, with forward Neci Hemingway’s layup in the closing minute starting a raucous celebration by the Conway faithful.
“It feels good … we’re pretty proud of ourselves that we made history tonight,” Evans said.
Said Chadmon: “I’m a senior … I know (playing for a Lower State title) is something I wanted.”
Evans and Chadmon each had 11 points, while Hemingway chipped in eight for Conway. Leading all scorers was Socastee’s Baldwin, who scored 17 points in a losing effort.
SOC (27): Shayla Baldwin 17, Jaelyn Grandison 2, Haley Altman 4, Katie Cudd 2, Jadan Jones 2.
CON (33): Lenaejha Evans 11, Neci Hemingway 8, Zakera Chadmon 11, Christian Moore 3.
3-pointers: SOC 0, CON 3 (Evans, Chadmon, Moore). Team fouls: SOC 13, CON 11. Fouled out: None. Technical fouls: None.
Records: SOC 13-13, CON 17-6.