SUMTER — Laurence Manning entered Saturday’s SCISA Class 3A boys basketball state tournament with seven losses — but they left as a team of destiny.
The long-suffering Swampcats (29-7) completed a three-game tournament sweep with a 51-35 victory against defending champion Heathwood Hall before a near-capacity crowd at the Sumter Civic Center, securing the program’s first state title since 1991.
“We lost in the semifinals last season, and with the talent we had coming back, we felt we had a shot at it this year,” Laurence Manning coach Will Epps said. “This the culmination of years of hard work by the these guys. They really came together as a team in this tournament.”
The Highlanders (20-6) were without the services of senior star Joseph James, who suffered a knee injury late in the third quarter of Friday’s semifinal win over Porter-Gaud.
“It’s tough when you don’t have the guy who was your leader all season, but I couldn’t be more proud of the way the guys competed tonight under tough circumstances,” Heathwood Hall coach Jeff Whalen said. “Laurence Manning was the better team tonight.”
Epps can relate to the loss of a key player. Starting point guard Patrick Anderson suffered a season-ending knee injury in early December.
“I know just how (the Highlanders) feel,” he said. “The big difference was we had more time to make adjustments.”
The Highlanders played well in the first quarter, building a 14-11 lead on 7-for-13 shooting. Things went down hill after that. Heathwood Hall shot 8-for-38 the rest of the way.
Alex Bueno finished his Heathwood Hall career with 15 points.
Laurence Manning made its move in the middle periods, outscoring the Highlanders 27-13 with the help of six 3-pointers — three each in the second and third quarters.
The Swampcats opened the second quarter with an 8-0 run that featured 3-pointers by Kelum McIntyre and Will McNair. McIntyre tied the score with a trey from the left corner, and McNair followed with two 3’s on consecutive possessions. His basket from the right wing gave Laurence Manning its first lead — an advantage the Swampcats never surrendered.
The outcome became academic after Laurence Manning began the third quarter with a 12-3 surge to up its lead to 38-23 with 3:06 to go. The burst featured 3-pointers by Ryan Anderson, Terrance Crump and McIntyre
HH: Singleton 9, Alex Bueno 15, Whittaker 7, Burg 2, Brandner 2. LM: Anderson 7, Kalum McIntyre 15, Will McNair 10, Crump 2, Jeremy Byrd 13, Pipken 2.