Charles Smith scored a career-high 40 points Friday in a 67-52 win over Laurence Manning Academy that propelled Cardinal Newman back to the SCISA Class 3A state championship game.
Eyeing back-to-back championships for the first time in school history, the Cardinals (19-9) take on Augusta Christian on Saturday in the 8 p.m. tournament finale at the Sumter County Civic Center.
“Charles drove me crazy a little bit, but I guess when he’s shooting the ball like he did tonight, I have to learn to just sit down and watch,” Cardinal Newman coach David Ross said.
Smith is getting his first title shot at his new school after two seasons as a starter at Keenan.
“This is an unbelievable moment for me,” the 6-foot-3 senior wing guard said. “I’m just thankful for this opportunity. We’ve gone from level one to level two this week. We have level three to go.”
The Cardinals broke open the game in the fourth quarter with a 26-13 burst behind 15 points from Smith. Ross was most impressed his club stayed grounded despite having point guard Zakki Parker foul out with the game still close in the fourth quarter.
“It was not as clean a performance as I would have liked, but the fact that we had some guys step up and fill in for a guy who handles the ball a lot was a big thing,” Ross said. “Evan DuBois and Stefone Brown allowed us to keep it together down the stretch.”
Cardinal Newman also received a solid second-half performance from D.J. Halfacre, who scored five points and was a factor on the boards.
The Cardinals opened the fourth with an 8-2 run and a 49-42 lead, and they put it away with an 11-0 surge for a 65-47 advantage with one minute to go.
“We’ve done the job so far, but we’ll see how it goes tomorrow,” Ross said.
Shakei Green led the Swampcats (21-12) with 26 points.