Goose Creek rallies to take 4A girls crown

Late technical foul is last straw as Gators recover from 21-point deficit

ainelson@thestate.comMarch 5, 2010 

The Class 4A girls state championship game was tied with 5.7 seconds to go.

Spring Valley had squandered leads of 21 points and nine points in the face of a relentless Goose Creek offense. But with scant seconds remaining in their season, the Vikings' saw their shot at a second straight state title slip away.

Aleighsa Welch hit one of two free throws after a technical foul against Spring Valley to lift Goose Creek to a 64-63 victory and the Class 4A state championship.

The Vikings were penalized after calling a timeout they did not have. But Spring Valley (26-3), which had defeated its playoff opponents by no fewer than 20 points, lost the game long before the final sequence.

Spring Valley was on fire at the start and led by 19 points after the first quarter, but streaky play in the second quarter - including over six scoreless minutes - endangered their chances.

"We didn't lose this game because of the tech. It's not one thing that lost it for us. It was us," Spring Valley junior Savonia Bryan said.

"All five starters didn't come out ready to play," added Bryan, who tallied five points and six rebounds for the Vikings. "We can't just rely on one person, and for a while we did. But we lost that game. We have to congratulate Goose Creek because they outworked us."

Asia Dozier posted 26 points to lead the Vikings, and Shaquita Walker added 12 points and four steals in the effort as the Vikings tried to avoid a second loss to Goose Creek.

With 7:17 left to play, a block and three-point play by Xylina McDaniel put Spring Valley ahead 51-48. The Vikings stretched their lead back to nine with 3:48 remaining, but the Gators fired back.

Welch, who led Goose Creek to the final after their third consecutive trip to the semifinals, said she refused to concede defeat after making it to Colonial Life Arena.

"We can never, ever, ever give up," said Welch, who led the game with 36 points. "We finally got over the hump, we were the underdogs, but we believed in ourselves. I knew that I could count on my teammates to make plays, and they did."

The Vikings had held a three-point lead with 58 seconds left.

"We missed some crucial free throws down the line, and they capitalized on just about every turnover," Vikings coach Anne Long said of the Gators' comeback.

Early on, the Gators could not get anything going.

Spring Valley junior guard Briana Robinson hit the first of four Vikings 3-pointers 15 seconds into the game. At a loss to respond, Goose Creek fell behind by 10 points after the first three minutes. The Gators struggled to score against Spring Valley's zone, and Welch posted just two points in the first period.

Trailing 33-12 midway through the second period, the Gators adjusted to Spring Valley's game and began the rally. With 4:37 to go in the half, Welch made a four-point play that sparked the Gators. Goose Creek cut the Spring Valley lead from 21 points to 11 in 90 seconds. With 3:01 to go, the Gators' deficit was back in single digits. All told, the Gators finished the half with a four-minute, 14-0 run to pull within 35-30 at halftime. Welch had eight points during the run.

Goose Creek took a small lead in the third period, and the game was back-and-forth from there.

"We had a 20-point lead, and we thought that was enough and we stopped playing," Bryan said. "That won't happen again."

Added Long: "We're still young, and I'm sure this is a game that will always stay with them."

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GC: Aleighsa Welch 36, Nelson 2, Bryant 6, Fields 6, Hawkins 4, Wright 8. SV: Asia Dozier 26, Shaquita Walker 12, Bryan 5, McDaniel 7, Lawrence 4, Robinson 9.

Reach Nelson at (803) 771-8419.

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