Third time is a charm for Hartsville Hoopsters
By Don Gearhart
Having lost twice to Wilson High School and giving up an average of 66 points per game, the Hartsville Red Foxes put together a game plan that would limit the Tigers’ scoring prowess. Although playing against a decided height advantage, the Red Foxes executed a strategy that included a tight halfcourt man-to-man defense and an offense that was patient, looking for easy scoring opportunities.
Wilson, who was ranked No. 2 in the 4A Lower State Bracket, came into the game a heavy favorite and the standing room only crowd was present to root their Tigers to victory. Nobody told the Red Foxes that it was a foregone conclusion. Wilson grabbed a quick 4-0 lead before Xavion Robinson buried a three-point shot from the corner, then quickly scored a layup to give Hartsville a 5-4 lead. Merel Burgess scored inside to put Wilson back on top. But, Sahquan Pendergrass gave Hartsville an 8-6 lead when his three-pointer hit nothing but net. This tight 8-6 lead was significant in that the Red Foxes would not trail again for the remainder of the contest. As the first period was winding down and Hartsville leading 14-6, only a buzzer-beating trifecta by Xavier Brown made the first period closer at 14-9.
Braden Crawley and Jamaal Brown hit from downtown and Pendergrass added another three-point shot in the second quarter which saw Wilson limited to just two points until Josh Leonard hit his second basket of the period with just ten seconds left until halftime. Meanwhile, Hartsville nearly doubled their first period scoring and took a 27-13 lead at the break.
The third period saw Wilson eek a point closer as they outscored Hartsville by a 12-11 margin thanks to three-point shots from Leonard and Josh Green. All of Hartsville’s scoring came from Robinson (6) and Crawley (5).
The Red Foxes came out on fire in the final period. Deandre Huggins scored all of his seven points in the quarter and Crawley got loose for two easy layups from Wilson’s full-court press. He added two free throws in managing six fourth period points. Tristan Thompson scored six points for the Tigers in the period and Burgess scored five.
Despite being out rebounded, the Red Foxes won the turnover battle as well as at the free throw line. Only one free throw was made in the first half but Hartsville was 6-10 at the charity stripe in the second half while Wilson was only 3-6.
Robinson led all scorers with sixteen points and Crawley added 14 points. Burgess and Leonard hit for 13 and 11 respectively, for the Tigers.
Hartsville, the No. 11 seed, has now defeated the No. 6 and No. 2 seeds in the tournament. The Red Foxes will now to keep the streak alive as the face the No. 1 seed, Irma, in the Lower State Championship at the Florence Center on February 24.