Top-ranked Dreher withstood a challenge from Crestwood on Monday night but pulled out a 50-42 victory Monday night to advance to the Class 3A Lower State championship game.
The Blue Devils (23-1) will square off against city rival Lower Richland for the fourth time this season at the Florence Civic Center on Saturday. It’s the first Final Four appearance for Dreher since 2004.
“Crestwood was tenacious and very physical, and I was proud of the way the girls stepped up to meet the challenge,” said Dreher coach Teresa Jones, whose team is riding a 19-game winning streak. “I think both teams were very nervous at the start of the game, and neither team was able to shoot the ball well. In this kind of game, it comes down to team defense, and we played very well at the defensive end.”
The strong inside play of Kaydra Duckett and Makayla Johnson was critical to Dreher’s success. Both sophomores rang up double doubles. Duckett scored a game-high 20 points and snatched 11 rebounds, while Johnson tallied 12 points and 13 rebounds.
“We’ve been waiting for Makayla to come alive, and she came out very aggressively on defense and on the boards,” Jones said. “She also made a few big plays offensively in the fourth quarter. We some glimpses tonight, the attitude and tenacity were there. But we still have to get her to make those good shots she gets, because when she does, she’s going to be a dominant force.”
Johnson also had four blocks in the game, none bigger than a rejection of a driving layup attempt by Daniquia Lewis with 2:18 to go after the Knights pulled within 45-39.
After a halting start, Dreher went on a 14-0 run to build a 23-9 lead. The Blue Devils continued to maintain their double-digit advantage into the fourth quarter but could not put the Knights away. Trailing 39-28 with 5:35 to go, Crestwood cut the deficit to six points at three different points down the stretch but could get no closer.
The first key Dreher response came with back-to-back breakaway scores by Johneisha Myers in span of 15 seconds to push the lead back to 45-35 with 3:45 remaining.
“Those were very big plays and scores because we missed our share of layups in the game,” Jones said.
Crestwood (19-5) could not keep up with the pace sparked by Dreher’s pressure defense.
“I have to take my hat off to Dreher because they forced us to fast-game tempo, and we couldn’t capitalize on a lot of our opportunities,” Knights coach Tony Wilson said.
The difference came at the free-throw line. Crestwood had a 29-28 advantage in points from the field, but Dreher trumped that with a 21-13 advantage at the charity stripe.
C: Williams 5, Alexandria Scriven 15, Lewis 4, K. Murray 8, Skinner 8, Bennett 1, C. Murray 1. D: Nathaniel 1, Makayla Johnson 12, Robinson 2, Hopkins 5, Kaydra Duckett 20, Starr 2, Myers 6, C. Canty 2.