One team rushed the court along with its student section and thought it had made a miraculous fourth-quarter comeback. The other stood in stunned silence until the players realized the final basket was declared to have come after the buzzer sounded.
Dreher and Greenville supporters likely will always differ on the controversial final seven seconds of the Red Raiders’ 45-44 victory Wednesday night in the third round of the Class 3A playoffs.
The Blue Devils got off three shots in those closing seconds, with the final one from Tevin Mack going through basket before all three officials waved it off and hastily retreated to the safety of the locker room.
“I didn’t get an explanation,” Dreher coach Jeff DiBattisto said. “(The officials) ran off the floor and just said no good. So I have no idea. I haven’t seen any film, so I have no idea.”
Greenville coach Mike Anderson saw the call all the way but for a few split seconds thought the basket was going to be good and his team would have wasted a 10-point fourth quarter lead.
“I saw the ref waved the basket off, so I definitely thought it was after the horn,” Anderson said. “I was just frustrated it wasn’t our ball before that.”
Video taken by courtside fans proved inconclusive but there is little doubt of how the final quarter played out.
Dreher (19-7) rallied behind the play of Mack. Greenville (21-6) held a 44-37 lead after two Rashaad Smith free throws with 1:38 remaining before Mack almost brought Dreher back. The junior, who earlier in the week was named the Class 3A Player of the Year, scored off of a rebound miss to make it 44-39. After a steal, Mack drove for a layup to draw the Blue Devils within 44-41. Ramel Brown made 1-of-2 free throws with 30 seconds to go but the Red Raiders would not get another shot off.
Mack, who finished with 33 points, was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 23 seconds remaining and sank all three free throws to make it a one-point game. The Blue Devils forced a turnover on the inbound pass and called time out with 14 seconds remaining to set the stage for the final seconds.
A 3-pointer from the wing was long before Mack ran down the rebound and put up another shot that was off the mark before his final crack went through too late.
“Our big thing is we don’t want to put ourselves in the position to where an official gets to make that decision,” DiBattisto said. “We had a lot of plays, 50-50 balls and some rebounds that we didn’t get that if we do and make those plays we’re not in a position where an official can decide it.”
The Blue Devils were 7-of-14 from the free throw line in the second half before Mack made the three with 23 seconds remaining. Mack scored the final 11 points for Dreher, but in the fourth quarter the Blue Devils shot 4-of-16 from the field and couldn’t capitalize on the chances they had.
“That is part of the game,” DiBattisto said. “Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t. I thought our kids busted their butts at the end to really try and come back. But you have to credit Greenville, they played a great game. They had a good game plan, came in and executed it.”
Mack had 33 points but no other Dreher player tallied more than four. Greenville had nine players in the scoring column but none had more than the eight points by Brown and Trippe Erwin. That balance is something the Red Raiders have leaned on all season.
“When you have kids that don’t care about who gets the points, it makes it easy,” Anderson said. “We’ve had six or seven guys that might lead us in scoring on any given night. It makes it hard for other teams to scout us.”
Greenville will play A.C. Flora in the Upper State title game Saturday night at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville. The Falcons knocked off Emerald 68-48 in a quarterfinal match-up. Anderson is expecting another close contest with a Midlands team from a strong Region 4-3A.
“It was just a dog fight,” Anderson said. “We’ve been in a ton of those games all year, and we somehow keep battling and finding a way to win. We’re just happy to be alive still, and we expect this same type of game this weekend.”
G: Brown 8, Erwin 8, Edenfield 6, Whitehurst 6, Williams 5, Ratliff 4, Flint 3, Francis 3, Smith 2. D: Tevin Mack 33, Lemmons 4, Stiglbauer 4, Nathaniel 2, Drayton 1.