Region 5 champion Airport escaped with a 51-50 overtime win over No. 4 seed Marlboro County in the first round of the Class 3A state boys basketball playoffs Thursday at The Nest.
Though it was perhaps a bit tougher than expected, it was the first state success for the Eagles in eight years.
Airport (19-4) hosts Hanahan on Saturday. It will be only the third time in program history that the Eagles have had the home court advantage for a second round game.
“We made a lot of mistakes on the court and a lot of mistakes as a coaching staff tonight, but I have to love our kids’ resilience when things didn’t go our way,” said Airport coach Jimmy Kinard.
“We’ve got to play better and I’ve got to coach better if we want to keep playing past Saturday. I have to give Marlboro County a lot of credit. They had a long drive to get here and gave us all we wanted. We’re very fortunate.”
The visiting Bulldogs let an upset slip away at the free throw line. MC’s Trey Woods missed two free throws with nine second left in regulation, and the team was 3-for-10 at the stripe in the extra session.
Demetrius Knox, who scored a game high 18 points, had a chance to tie the score with 3.6 second remaining in OT when he went to the line for three shots on an intentional foul. He made two of three to set the final score. Then, a desperation heave by MC at the buzzer failed to connect.
Junior Sammy Frazier and freshman CJ Wright shared Airport scoring honors with 16 point apiece.
Wright tallied five of Airport’s seven OT points, including a free throw with eight seconds to go that turned out to be the clincher. Frazier scored 13 of his 16 points in the final 20 minutes.
“Sammy’s our energy guy and he really kept us going in the second half,” said Kinard. Frazier had two points and set up a driving score by Wright for a 50-46 lead with a bullet pass.
The storybook ending wasn’t there for Airport fans in the opener. For the second year in a row, the Region 5 champion Eagle girls team was upset at home by a No. 4 seed.
This time it was the Darlington, 41-31. The Falcons outscored Airport 18-2 in the fourth quarter, including an 11-0 run in the final 2:20 to doom the Eagles again. Airport score just six points in the second half and didn’t make a shot from the field in the last nine minutes of the game.
“It’s the same old story; we’re not good enough,” said Airport coach Trey Wallace. “I’ve got to find as way to get this team tougher. It’s not a good thing to blow through your region, and then lose at home in the first round two years in a row.”
The Eagles (18-5) jumped out to a 12-2 lead in the first quarter, but things deteriorated steadily the rest of the way.
Kaela Mansell led Airport with eight points.
Jada Richardson paced Darlington with 11 points, and Deanna house tallied nine of her 10 points in the fourth quarter.