Chad Cary saw the difference on paper. Immediately.
When Newberry’s coach perused Indian Land’s roster before Saturday’s Class 2A Boys’ Upper State Final, he saw a striking difference. The Bulldogs, making their third consecutive Upper State Final appearance, had nine seniors. Indian Land did not.
“I saw their roster, and saw sophomore, sophomore, sophomore,” Cary said. “And we were fortunate enough when we came here (three years ago) with our sophomores we had some seniors and juniors to go with it. It’s just different.”
That experience mattered. Newberry broke open a tight game after halftime, pulling away for a 78-66 win over the Warriors at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
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The Bulldogs (25-4) wore down Indian Land with a 34-21 game-ending run, and will play in the state title game against Lake Marion. Indian Land (20-5) saw its 10-game win streak end.
Newberry lost both its previous trips to Colonial Life Arena, including last March against Lake Marion. That fact isn’t lost on Cary, who said he put plenty of stress on himself getting his veteran team back to Columbia.
“I don’t care what happens in (the state title game), the last three years, what these kids have done for me has been absolutely amazing. What they’ve done for our community,” Cary said.
Senior guard Trey Miller led Newberry with 18 points, while senior forward Notorious Booker added 16.
Indian Land used a 7-1 run to claim a 45-44 lead midway through the third quarter, but the Bulldogs responded with an impressive run of their own, closing the quarter on a 12-2 run.
Booker’s 3-pointer from the right wing as time expired gave Newberry a 56-47 lead into the final quarter. The Bulldogs poured it on from there, leading by as many as 18 points with three minutes remaining.
“That’s what we do,” Cary said. “…. When (opponents) come out of halftime, they’re gassed. About the third quarter, three and a half minutes remaining, you can tell.”