The Keenan Raiders made quick work of Chesnee in Friday’s third-round game, winning 67-37 and earning both a berth in the Class 2A Upper State final and a quick turnaround.
With less than 24 hours to prepare, Keenan will face Strom Thurmond for the Upper State title on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Greenville’s Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
Powered by 23 points from Tariq Simmons and 21 from Antwan Holmes, the Raiders put a sharply executed offense on the court after a six-day layoff due to the weather.
“I was a little worried because our kids had been sitting around for a few days,” coach Zach Norris said. “Just practicing, you get a little flat. But they came out and did a real good job on defense, and I thought we did a real good job executing our offense in the latter stages of the game.”
The Raiders (19-8) never trailed and pushed their lead to 33-21 by halftime, despite 11 points from all-state player of the year Deion Holmes. He scored nine points off 3-pointers in the half but also picked up three fouls. Holmes finished with 19 points.
Midway through the second quarter, Chesnee made it a one-point game after a 3-pointer from Dylan Grogan. Keenan answered with five buckets in a row – two from Majerle Poole – to close the period.
Chesnee (17-10) scored two baskets in the fourth quarter as the Raiders played keep-away for most of the final eight minutes. Keenan tallied all 10 of its fourth-quarter points off free throws.
“They did a lot of smart things tonight with the basketball at the end there,” Norris said. “We worked on it yesterday, how to close games out, because we hadn’t been doing that well. Because we had a lot of blowouts, we don’t get a lot of opportunity to do that. But they did good tonight.”
The Raiders have scored 67 points in each of their playoff games and have averaged a 32-point margin of victory on the way to back to the Upper State final. Keenan was an Upper State finalist in 2013 but exited the playoffs in the third round last season.
After the game, the Raiders had an hour before getting on the bus to Greenville, and Norris said he would spend the ride breaking down film of Strom Thurmond (19-8). He said the hectic pace of preparations for the semifinal game reminded him of the team’s holiday tournament experiences.
“These guys, they’re used to it. I think they’ll be prepared. They look at as, there’s no tomorrow. They live for today, and I’m sure they’ll be ready to play,” Norris said.
C: Deion Holmes 19, Wright 2, McCallum 2, McKinney 2, Grogan 6, Brown 6. K: Tariq Simmons 23, Antwan Holmes 21, Majerle Poole 12, Gathers 5, Davis 4, L. Johnson 2.