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Quick start carries Falcons over Demons, 67-52

Posted: February 15, 2018 11:20 a.m.
Updated: February 16, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

L-E’S KEVON ROBERSON GOES over A.C. Flora center Daniel Finney on his way to the basket in action from Wednesday’s 4A Lower State playoff game.

COLUMBIA --- Making its first appearance in state postseason play in eight seasons, Lugoff-Elgin showed signs of rust in Wednesday’s 4A Lower State tournament opener at A.C. Flora.

The Demons, the fourth seed out of Region 6, could never get out of the 17-2 hole they dug for themselves in what turned out to be a 67-52 loss to the Falcons in Forest Acres.

On a night in which the visitors turned the ball over more than 20 times, there were at least two occasions in which Garrett Knight’s team went three straight possessions and did not get off a shot due to turnovers. If ever there was a contest in which ball security was of prime importance, this was it especially given the aggressive defensive pressure being applied by the Region 5 champions.

“They were aggressive in the first quarter and they were riding us a little bit (on defense) and we didn’t get the fouls called that we would have liked to have gotten,” Knight said of the full court defensive pressure applied by the Falcons. “Credit them in the half-court press, though, they really shut us down early. Credit our kids, too, for fighting back late and putting points on the board but it was too little too late.”

The Falcons (17-6) paid particular attention to the whereabouts of L-E’s leading scorer Kevon Roberson and threw a defensive blanket over the senior guard who was held to two points on the night; 14 below his 16.0 points per game average. The hosts also limited the damage inflicted by senior guard Bradwin Salmond whose eight points were well below his 13.7 average. 

Knight said he tried to help Roberson by talking to the officials about how A.C. Flora defended his team’s leading scorer coming into the contest.

“It’s been like that all season,” Knight said of team’s trying to take Roberson out of his offensive rhythm. “I always tell people to watch them riding him from the back and they just don’t seem to see it. They say, ‘If I don’t see it, I can’t call it.’

“He plays hard and fast; he gets by people but he just doesn’t get the calls.”

The scoring slack for the visitors was picked up by senior forward Arturo Sealy who led all scorers but was the only Demon in double figures with 21 points in the season-ending setback.

The Demons (16-8) trailed at every juncture and were looking up at a 53-27 deficit before closing the game with a 26-point fourth quarter.

The die was cast in the early going of this one as the hosts answered a game-opening 15-foot Salmond jumper by closing the opening stanza by scoring 17 unanswered points with six different players contributing points toward the run as the Falcons brought fresh legs in throughout the evening. The guests got a taste of what things would be like when a Demon ballhandler was knocked down at half court by Quincy Riley, who picked up the loose ball which turned into a Zack Foulks basket and an 11-2 advantage with three minutes to play in the opening stanza. The series of events drew a time out from Knight to settle his troops.

“They sped us up, which was their game plan all along. We knew they were going to do that,” Knight said of Flora’s defensive game strategy. “They did a great job of speeding us up and creating turnovers and then getting easy shots at the basket on theie end of the floor.

“We were trying to slow it down and make it a possession-by-possession game but they turned up the intensity on us in the half-court and we didn’t really have an answer for that early on.”

The constant pressure and bringing in fresh sets of legs continued to pay dividends for the Falcons in the second quarter. A series of three straight L-E turnovers paved the way for a 5-0 run which gave the hosts the 24-8 lead. Another turnover versus the press led to R.J. Mobley going inside for an easy pair and a 26-10 lead with just over two minutes left in the opening half.

Sealy tried to keep the guests afloat, scoring eight of their 13 second quarter points, but it was a shell-shocked group of visitors who which headed for the locker room looking up at a 36-15 halftime deficit.

The Falcons scored a dozen first half points on second- or, third-chance baskets while adding another eight from within the paint area. That trend continued in a third quarter in which A.C. Flora scored all but one of its 17 points on layins, putbacks and a pair of dunks in getting past the Demons’ pressure defensive scheme.

“We tried to go to a little zone-trap to try and slow them down and it was working early,” Knight said of his team’s halftime adjustments. “But they had too many layups tonight. They were getting to the basket. They were tenacious and they were getting after us.”

The Falcons opened the second half with a 13-4 run with the lone L-E basket from the field in the opening four minutes of the third quarter coming on a Salmond 3-point jumper at the 3:55 marker. The Demons closed the gap to 53-27 heading into the fourth quarter after Sealy and fellow senior Ronil Patel knocked down a pair of treys in the closing 45 seconds.

The A.C. Flora lead ballooned to 30, at 61-31, thanks to a Derrick Sinkler --- who led the hosts with 17 points --- 3-ball with 6:35 showing on the game clock.

After struggling from the field for most of the evening, the Demons stared clicking from distance in the latter stages of play. A 13-2 rally over the course of three minutes cut the deficit to 63-44. The run included eight points from Sealy, who scored on a pair of layups and a trey. Salmond then went outside the arc for three in the series.

“Finally, we started hitting some threes there near the end to cut the lead,” Knight said.

L-E ended its season on a positive note, using an 8-2 closing stretch to narrow the gap. The Demon points came from its reserves with sophomore guard Devante Johnson scoring four points in the closing 105 seconds while junior center Austin Shilhavy and freshman guard Josh Gary added two points each on a layin and two free throws, respectively.

The postseason experience was new territory for Knight as a coach as well as his players. He refused to use nerves as an excuse after the game.

“I thought my kids were pretty loose tonight,” he said. “Everything was pretty loose … I was loose. We were excited about it. We knew we were coming into a tough environment and, for the most part, I thought they did a good job of handling it for the first time.”

L-E (52): Bradwin Salmond 3 0-0 8, Elisha Manigo 2 1-4 5, Austin Shilhavy 1 2-2 4, Arturo Sealy 8 2-2 21, Ty Cobb 0 1-2 1, Ronil Patel 2 0-0 5, Kevon Roberson 1 0-0 2, Devante Johnson 2 0-0 4, Josh Gary 0 2-3 2. Totals: 19 8-13 52

ACF (67): Derrick Sinkler 6 1-4 17, R.J. Mobley 2 0-0 4, Quincy Riley 2 1-2 5, Zack Foulks 5 0-0 12, Robert McCray 2 0-0 4, Patrick Iriel 1 2-2 4, Nasir Boyce 2 1-2 5, Daniel Finney 3 0-0 6, Matt Jamison 2 0-0 4, J.B. Moore 1 0-0 2, Dewey Green 1 0-2 2, Cross Gibson 1 0-0 2. Totals: 28 5-12 67

Score by quarters: First: ACF, 17-2; Halftime: ACF, 36-15; Third: ACF, 53-27; Three-point goals: L-E 6 (Sealy 3, Salmond 2, Patel), ACF 6 (Sinkler 4, Foulks 2)

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