Dutch Fork coach Matt Brown has seen his squad play much better than he felt they did Monday night against Lexington. But the result is the one he was looking for.
The Silver Foxes rallied for an important 50-45 victory over the Wildcats in a game that was rescheduled from last week due to snow closures in the Midlands.
The win gives Dutch Fork a shot at the Region 5-4A title Tuesday night. It will host North Augusta in their regular season finale. The Silver Foxes trail the Yellow Jackets by one game in region play and must win by more than 10 points to secure the top seed from the region in the upcoming playoffs. If they win by fewer than 10, they will need North Augusta to lose to Aiken on Wednesday. A North Augusta win over the Silver Foxes will give the Yellow Jackets the top spot in the region regardless of what happens against Aiken.
Dutch Fork could drop to the No. 3 seed in one scenario. If Aiken – which plays White Knoll before closing with North Augusta – wins out, it will own the tiebreaker with the Silver Foxes and would be the No. 2 seed with Dutch Fork finishing third.
“This helps our confidence a lot going into the playoffs,” Brown said. “To go on the road against a very good Lexington team and win gives us a chance to do something we’ve talked about since the summer. We’ve got a chance, and that’s all you can ask for in the last regular season game of the season.”
Dutch Fork (16-7, 7-2) might be getting healthy at a good time. Austin Williams returned against Lexington to score 12 points after missing the entire region schedule with a stress fracture. Deion Frasier added 11 and Sterling Thomas scored 10 to pace the balanced attack.
“Getting Austin back really helps us,” Brown said. “He came in and gave us good minutes and contributed. We’re pretty deep, and if one guy is having an off night, another guy will pick him up. That happened tonight.”
Lexington trailed twice in the first half and built a 35-28 lead early in the third quarter before its offense hit the skids. The Wildcats made three of their final 21 shots from the field over the final 14 minutes.
“We scored eight points in the last 14 minutes of the game, and it’s tough to win against a really good team when you do that,” Lexington coach Bailey Harris said. “We score the first three possessions of the third quarter, and that was basically it for our offense for the night. Needless to say, we didn’t shoot it real well.”
Dutch Fork closed the game on a 14-5 run. It trailed 40-37 to open the final quarter but scored on its first four possessions to take a 45-40 lead with 4:56 remaining. Frasier tied the score with a long 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter and a Jordan Davis free throw gave the Silver Foxes the lead for good with 6:24 remaining.
Being able to get stops on the defensive end helped Dutch Fork finds its offense at the crucial time.
“Offensively, we struggled against their matchup zone,” Brown said. “We couldn’t get to the basket much and settled for 3s early. We emphasized to get defensive stops at halftime so they couldn’t get into that zone, and we did that much better.”
Nelson Spence led Lexington (17-9, 5-5) with 16 points. The Wildcats secured a playoff berth by winning three of their final four games. They likely will be the No. 4 seed and have to play the winner of Region 6-4A in the first round of the playoffs.
“We won three games in a row where the game was still in doubt with the ball in the air at the buzzer,” Harris said. “I’m proud of them coming into that stretch and winning three of the last four. Big picture-wise, I can’t fuss.”
DF: Austin Williams 12, Deion Frasier 11, Sterling Thomas 10, Harris 9, Mills 4, Davis 4. L: Nelson Spence 16, Blake 8, Haney 6, Morris 5, Davis 4, Hoppe 2, Hunter 2, Brown 2.