FLORENCE — In the third quarter of the Class 3A Lower State final at the Florence Civic Center, Lower Richland seemed poised for a comeback.
But a swift reversal of fortune saw the Diamond Hornets fall to Hartsville 60-46.
With 3:09 left in the third, Lower Richland senior Vincent Hicklin hit a jumper that evened the score at 27, then hustled back to make a block at the other end. With 42 seconds to go, Hicklin made a layup to give Lower Richland its first lead, 31-30, going into the final period.
Then the tide turned.
Lower Richland was assessed two technical fouls early in the period, and Hartsville made all eight of its free throws to take a 44-35 lead after three minutes.
The first technical foul came with 4:20 remaining when Lower Richland senior guard Eric Eaves was hit in the legs while jumping for a rebound and fell on his head.
As trainers worked to control bleeding from a deep cut on his head, Eaves’ mother, who had rushed onto the court to attend to him, collapsed. Paramedics revived her after several minutes, while Eaves walked off the court with help. Both were taken to the hospital for treatment.
“It was a hard. It was very emotional, to get back on the court,” said Washington, who was assessed a technical foul after arguing with the referees for not calling a foul on the play that injured Eaves. “I feel really bad for the seniors because they’ve been with us for a long time and we really wanted to do it.”
Hartsville coach Aric Samuel could not settle on a gameplan for the Diamond Hornets and took a basic approach to stopping the Region 5-3A champions.
“I told them, if they would rebound against Lower Richland, they could win,” Samuel said.
Hartsville’s long-armed defense hindered Lower Richland from the start, with four blocked shots in the first quarter. The Diamond Hornets were 0-for-13 from the field and trailed by seven after eight minutes.
Edward Stephens got Lower Richland going with bucket to start the second, and Hicklin’s putback jam made it a one-possession game.
Hartsville junior Dovontea Washington led the Red Foxes on both ends with seven points and four blocks in the half.
“Against a team like Lower Richland, that was very exciting. We’ve been doing it all season,” Samuel said.
Washington finished with 18 points and six blocks, and Jaylen Shaw led the game with 23. Lower Richland was led by Hicklin’s 14 points.
“They just played very, very hard, and for a while they played a little harder than us,” Washington said of Hartsville. “We had to spend so much energy trying to catch up.”
Hartsville will face Southside in the Class 3A final on March 3 at Colonial Life Arena.
“Two years ago, we were nowhere near this,” said Samuel.
H: Jackson 2, Jaylen Shaw 23, Pearson 2, Copeland 7, Dovontea Washington 18, Prescott 8. LR: Brown 3, Eaves 7, Stephens 9, Montgomery 2, McFadden 2, Stroman 2, Walker 1, Vincent Hicklin 14, Gibson 6.
Reach Nelson at (803) 771-8419