Wade Hampton junior Preston Parks has taken shots from just about every spot on the floor of John Ross Gymnasium. They just mean a little more these days, especially the ones he launched in the fourth quarter Friday night, the ones Blythewood coach Ezekial Washington aptly called “daggers.”
Parks scored 17 of his 28 points and hit four of his six 3-pointers in the final quarter of the Generals’ 72-56 win over the Bengals in their Class AAAA third-round playoff game.
Wade Hampton (23-1) will play Hillcrest for the Upper State championship at 7 p.m. Monday at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, which is what Parks had on his mind after the game.
“When my dad started working here, I was in the third grade,” said Parks, whose father, Elbert Parks, has been an assistant coach all those years. “I’ve watched them go to three Upper States since I’ve been here, and I’ve been like, ‘I want to play in Upper State. I want to play in the state championship.’ So I wanted to win, and we did. It feels good.
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“I’ve got so many pictures and memories of me as a little kid watching them and sitting on the bench, and it’s finally happening. The dream came true. I’ve been wanting to play there since I was a little kid. It’s going to feel great playing there.”
“There are times when I think he should be reading my mind because he’s been around so long, and I forget to coach him,” said Wade Hampton head coach Darryl Nance. “I have to remember he’s just a kid, and he needs me to coach him. He wants to be coached.”
Parks and the Generals needed some direction in the second half after Blythewood, down 38-20 with 5:30 left in the third quarter, closed to within 38-35 before the end of the period.
It was a struggle for Wade Hampton from then until late in the fourth quarter.
“It was a great effort by a team that didn’t want to lose,” Nance said.
Trae Churn scored for the Bengals to cut the Generals’ lead to 56-52 with 2:54 remaining. Parks had the ball on the right wing and somehow found himself wide open.
“I actually shoot better when there’s people on me, but I had to knock it down in order for us to get the lead up,” he said. “That’s why I took my time. I had no choice.”
He nailed it. Ramel Johnson scored for Blythewood, and the Bengals were still within 59-54. Then Parks fired again.
“The next time I came down,” he said, “I was feeling it, so I was going to let it go regardless.”
“The second three, I have to say, it better have gone in,” Nance said.
The Generals’ coach was standing in the lane following the game.
“That ‘T’ is (26 feet, 9 inches),” Nance said, pointing out the spot where Parks let fly. “He was behind the T, guarded, with a hand in his face, and I don’t think it moved the net when it went through it was so pure.”
“They were killers,” said Washington. “They were just like daggers.”
Parks’ night also was special in that he surpassed 1,000 points for his career, ending the game with 1,013.
Jaylan Eichelberger scored 14 points for the Generals. He had 10 in the fourth quarter, including 6 of 6 from the free-throw line.
Luke Brenegan and Jalen Williams had 10 points apiece, and Michael Wiper had nine points. Brenegan also had a huge 3-pointer that kept the momentum on the Generals’ side midway through the fourth quarter.
Keith Matthews had 14 points and Donovan Leach 11 for the Bengals (18-11), who trailed 31-15 at halftime.
“We didn’t play with the correct intensity in the first half,” Washington said. “We played with intensity in the third and fourth quarters. With our system, we’ve got to do it the first, second, third and fourth quarters, and we just weren’t intense in the first half. We try to wear people down. We saw them starting to break, but their experience came through. They just didn’t break.’
It’s a senior-laden Wade Hampton team, plus Parks, who’s been around a long time.
“I love my team,” said Williams, the team’s senior center. “We’ve been through so much through the years. We all came in together in the same class, and to finally be in this moment where we’re an inch away from state, it’s pretty surreal.”