Gators take a bite out of Falcons, Lady Falcons fly away from Lakewood
By Drake Horton, Contributing Writer
In the final regular season game of the year for both the Darlington girls’ and boys’ basketball team a lot was riding on the line when it came to region championships and playoff seeding.
While the girls were able to roll and clinch third place, the boys came up short to fall to third place.
Darlington 48, Lakewood 50 (boys)
Entering into Thursday’s final regular season game, the Darlington Falcons were facing four possible outcomes as it took on the Lakewood Gators at home.
The first scenario was to just win. A win would have guaranteed the Falcons a share of the region six, 4A title.
The second scenario was to win by 12 or more. A win by 12 or more points would have guaranteed the Falcons a one-seed in the playoffs.
The third scenario was if Darlington did lose, to hope the Hartsville Red Foxes lost as well so that the Falcons would still finish second in the region and earn at least one home game in the playoffs.
The fourth and final scenario was for Darlington to lose, but for the Hartsville to win, placing the Falcons third in the region and forcing them to go on the road to start the playoffs.
Unfortunately for Darlington it was the fourth scenario that played out as the Falcons lost 50-48 at home in what for all intent is the last home game for the year all while the Red Foxes beat Lugoff-Elgin 63-51.
Despite Darlington’s shortcomings, the loss was not for a lack of trying. With the odds stacked against them, the Falcons did everything they could to pull off the upset.
“(The) kids played their hearts out we just didn’t make plays and they made plays down the stretch,” Darlington boys’ head coach Ken Howle said.
After trailing for a majority of the first half including all of the second quarter, the Falcons came out of the locker room ready to play and play is what they did, turning a two-point deficit into an eight-point lead by the time the third quarter was over.
With an eight-point lead and one quarter left to go, not to mention the raucous home crowd behind its back, Darlington was beginning to look like it was going to be able to do the improbable and not only win, but win by that 12-point margin.
Lakewood, however, had something to say about that.
In the fourth quarter the Gators chipped away at Darlington’s lead; with less than three minutes into final quarter the Falcons once eight-point lead had been trimmed down to just three.
The Gators took the lead back for good with 1:46 left to go following two free throws going up 46-45. Darlington had multiple opportunities after those free throws to get the lead back, but it was unable to do so.
Between missed shots and a critical turnover the final minute of the game for Darlington was less than stellar and for every mistake that the Falcons made in the final minute it was Lakewood who capitalized on it.
“We just aren’t mentally tough sometimes with some decision making that we made,” Howle said. “We went through a series where we couldn’t score, had a hard time scoring.”
Kenynon Scott was the leading scorer for Falcons with 18 points.
Darlington’s final overall regular season record is 16-8, 5-3 in the region.
Darlington 42, Lakewood 27 (girls)
While a third place finish for the boys’ was the worst case scenario, third place was best case for the Lady Falcons and third place is what they earn with a 42-27 win over the Lakewood Lady Gators.
Holding just a four-point lead at the half, the Lady Falcons absolutely dominated Lakewood in the third quarter and it was more than enough as Darlington cruised to the win.
Darlington started the third quarter on a 16-0 run and outscored the Lady Gators 18-3 for the entire quarter.
Offense was not the only thing clicking for the Lady Falcons in the third quarter. Defensively, Darlington was a turnover-forcing machine and it held Lakewood to just three free throws, not giving up a single field goal.
Darlington’s defense was so strong in the second half that the Lakewood actually did not make its first field goal of the second half until the 4:29 mark.
“Hats off to Lakewood, I think they are well coached,” Darlington girls’ head coach Brad Knox said. “One of the things that we have been struggling with all year was being able to score. We were playing great defense all year, but we have to be able to find a chance to put it in the basket so that is why we try to use our defense to turn it into some offensive points.”
After losing to the Lady Gators by 11 in Lakewood earlier this season the Lady Falcons, like the Falcons, needed to win by at least 12 to clinch third place in the region and with the 15-point victory they did just that.
“I’m very proud of my young ladies on how they responded,” Knox said. “We went down to Lakewood the last time and kind of came out kind of flat and I talked with them yesterday and told them the situation we were in and they came out tonight and responded in a positive way.”
The Lady Falcons end the regular season with a 15-9 overall record, 3-5 in the region.