GREENVILLE — With its third consecutive road win, A.C. Flora earned an exciting trip back to Columbia.
The Falcons (19-9) defeated Greenville 42-40 in the Class 3A Upper State final at Bon Secours Wellness Center to earn a berth in the championship game in Columbia on March 8.
“My job here is to restore this program to the level it was when Carl Williams was here,” coach Leon Brunson said. “I don’t know if I’m doing a good job, but I know we have a shot at a state championship, and, hopefully, Carl Williams is sitting back smiling.”
Rion Davis led the Falcons with 13 points, including six in a first half that Flora dominated.
The Falcons settled into an offensive rhythm late in the first quarter and began to run away with the game in the second.
Up 12-7, A.C. Flora took off on an 8-0 run in the second quarter that stretched the Falcons’ lead to 13 points. But Greenville outscored Flora 8-4 in the next four minutes, and trailed 24-17 at the break.
With consecutive 3-pointers, the Red Raiders made it a one-point game while Flora was scoreless for the first three minutes of the half.
“That’s a great team,” Brunson said of Greenville (21-7). “They made a great run to come back in the game. But you know what? We kept defending the run, and we didn’t fold, and I’m so proud of these kids,” Brunson said.
When the Falcons opened the lead again, Greenville responded with another 3 – from Trey Williams, who posted 19 points in the game – to stay within striking distance.
But Diquan Day Grant boosted the Falcons in the final two minutes, sinking two free throws, then converting a steal into a fastbreak layup to give Flora a 31-26 lead.
The Falcons led by seven at the start of the fourth quarter.
With under three minutes to play, Charlie Francis drained a 3-pointer to make it a two-possession game, and then put up another long jumper to keep the pressure on, 42-38.
Williams got a steal at halfcourt and converted it to set the score at 42-40 with 1:03 to go.
“The thing is, they’ve never been in this moment, and they got a little bit rattled and they started losing faith a little bit. But our motto is see it through, and those kids understand that, and they live by that, and that’s why we’re still successful right now,” Brunson said.
A Flora foul gave Greenville possession with 47. 5 seconds to go. Ramel Brown’s 3-point attempt was no good, and the Falcons got the ball back with less than two seconds to go.
“We work on the situation a lot in practice. We just try to keep our composure, but late in the game we lost our focus a little bit,” said Grant, a senior. “Once we got our minds right, we knew we could win the game.”
G: Ratliff 4, Trey Williams 19, Blassingame 3, Flint 6, Brown 2, Erwin 1, Francis 5. ACF: Day Grant 4, Rion Davis 13, Gray 6, Bayles 2, Karl Gamble 12, Williams 5.