Hillcrest scored the final 10 points of the game Friday night to defeat Spring Valley 73-64 in 4A boys’ playoff action.
The victory sends the Rams to Monday night’s Upper State finale at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena against another Greenville County team, the Wade Hampton Generals.
Finally able to play after several days of delay because of inclement weather, the Rams and Vikings didn’t disappoint the standing-room-only crowd at the A. C. Duckett Gymnasium at Hillcrest. They swapped leads several times down the stretch until the Rams’ made their run.
Asked about his team’s finish, Hillcrest coach Reggie Choplin said, “That’s just their will to win. We’ve got a group of seniors, and this will be their third time playing for the Upper State. They’ve been in big games, close games. I can’t say enough about them.”
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The run began with 2:15 left after P. J. Dozier, who led the Vikings with 28 points, sank a pair of free throws to give Spring Valley a 64-63 lead. That marked the fourth lead change in 28 seconds.
Hillcrest notched a fifth and final lead change with 1:28 remaining in the game. Randall Shaw’s offensive rebound and put-back gave Hillcrest a 65-64 advantage.
“That was a lot of heart,” said Rams guard Tyler Hooker. The senior guard led all scorers with 37 points.
“We’ve been working through that since the summer,” he said. “All the days in practice. We fought through. We’ve been fighting through the whole season.”
Spring Valley’s final six possessions included four missed shots and two turnovers. Hillcrest, meanwhile, tallied points on each of its last six possessions.
“That’s the way it goes sometimes,” Spring Valley coach Perry Dozier said of his team failing to score in the final two minutes. “I can’t tell you. The kids played hard. You can’t take anything from Hillcrest. It’s a road loss. You go on the road, things have got to fall your way.”
Both teams energized the crowd with an offensive show in the first half. The Rams jumped to an 18-7 lead and led 24-17 after one quarter thanks to five three-point baskets, three by Shaw.
The Vikings came back in the second period, though, behind 11 points from Dozier and better defense.
“We went to the man,” said Perry Dozier, whose team blocked four Hillcrest shots in that second period. “That was the biggest thing. Going man and trying to keep the ball out of Shaw’s and Hooker’s hands.”
Hillcrest had a drought of its own, going scoreless over the last 3:47 of the third period. Spring Valley led 54-49 after three.
Hooker scored all seven of Hillcrest’s points in the third quarter and put the exclamation point on the win with a breakaway dunk for the final points.