Darlington holds off St. James comeback, advances to lower-state
By Drake Horton, Contributing Writer
In what turned out to be a wild shootout, the Darlington Falcons came out on top and advanced to its third straight lower-state championship this past Wednesday at the Falcons Nest, defeating the St. James Sharks 81-77.
The game turned out to be a tale of two halves for the Falcons with the first half showcasing Darlington’s shooting prowess and the second demonstrating what it really means to “live and die by the three”.
Darlington started the game out with a bang as Marquis Green, who led the team in scoring with 21 points, hit the opening a shot, a three-pointer from the left wing and it was as if that set a fire under the Falcons.
In the first half, Darlington never let up its shooting, hitting 10 three-pointers and building a 19-point lead at the half and looking well on its way to an easy victory.
“We played a clean first half,” Darlington boys head coach Ken Howle said after the win. “It was about as perfect, as beautiful.”
Then came the second half.
“The third quarter has been kind of our bug-a-boo,” Howle said, describing the massive change Darlington had in the second half. “As clean as we played in the first half, they (St. James) played a clean second half.”
Coming out of the half with all of the momentum on its side, Darlington scored the first three-points of the quarter, increasing its lead to 22 points; the largest of the game and was positioning itself to close the game out right there.
That’s when it happened. That’s when the light switch came on for St. James, who was coming off a surprise upset of Orangeburg-Wilkerson the game before.
With the Falcons leading 57-35 in the early stages of the third quarter the Sharks went on a quick 9-0, turning Darlington’s 22-point lead into just a 13-point lead.
While still clinging to a 14-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter, it was clear that St. James was beginning to find its stroke and with each shot its confidence grew.
Following Tyriq Smith’s two-pointer that ran the Falcons lead back to 19 points, the Sharks Zack Werba caught fire from the outside, hitting five three-pointers, including four straight and by the 2:42 St. James had went on a 22-5 run and cut the lead to 72-71.
“I’ve never seen a kid get on a role like that, shooting the three and it came from the same spot.” Howle said on Werba’s hot shooting in the fourth quarter. “We just didn’t seem to make good adjustments and that’s on the coaches maybe we should have changed up defensively.”
It was at the moment though Darlington found a way to answer. After being on the bench, battling cramps, Green came back on the court, draining a three, the Falcons only three-pointer of the second half, with 2:15 left on the clock.
“We put in work every single day to get where we are now,” Green said on Darlington’s win over St. James. “When I went to the bench I was cramping up. Coach told me when I got back in that was my game; so I had to show them what I was made of.”
Up 79-77 Darlington’s Frankie Johnson closed the door on St. James, making a lay-up with less than seven seconds to go following a combined steal from both Johnson and Green.
“It was just going through my head that if I don’t get this steal they (St. James) could end up hitting a three and beating us by one, get a foul, hit two free throws, tie the game and go into overtime,” Johnson said on what was possibly the biggest play in the game. “Luckily I came up with the steal and it helped seal the deal.”
The Falcons had four players in double digits scoring to go along with Green’s 21 points. Smith finished with 16 points, Johnson had 14 points to go along with nine assists and J.J. Jackson with 11.