Colonial Life Arena turned into the Dawg Pound on Saturday afternoon as Newberry avenged two straight championship game losses with a 77-47 dismantling of Lake Marion in the Class 2A boys title game.
It was a complete performance, and it could not have come at a better time for Bulldogs coach Chad Cary.
“He have great guards, and our kids battled,” Cary said. “We have nine seniors that have been here two years in a row, so they know what it takes. I don’t think Lake Marion has been in a 15-round fight like that, and I told our kids beforehand we wanted to knock them around for 15 rounds, and we did.”
It was the first team state championship for Newberry since the baseball team captured a state title in 1981. Cary knew they were not only playing for themselves but an entire community.
“I looked before I left, and we have nine second place trophies in our trophy case,” Cary said. “I think we finally kicked that door down, and hopefully we get a bunch more.”
Newberry lost a 49-48 heart-breaker to North Charleston two years ago before losing to this Gators team a season ago, 91-82. But this one was over before the half, and it was sweet redemption for nine seniors.
“ It’s something we’ve dreamed about accomplishing,” senior Jaylen Lindsay said. “We finally did. That is the only focus we had in practice is go on the court play our offense and slow down what they like to do offensively. We’ve got that ring now, and that’s what matters.”
It was tied at 13 with 3:12 remaining in the first quarter before the Bulldogs used a 12-3 run to take control. Trey Miller started it with a 3-pointer before Bennett Wilson added a layup and Raquon Davenport added another 3-pointer.
Clarence Sellers slowed the run with a 3-pointer for Lake Marion, but Davenport hit another jumper and Lindsay had a tip-in at the buzzer for a 25-16 lead after one quarter.
It stayed that way until the final 2:29 of the first half when Newberry (25-4) scored the final seven points to lead 45-28 at the break.
The lead never got below 17 points the rest of the way.
The game was a contrast to last season’s title game, when the teams had 17 ties and 26 lead changes – including 14 in a frantic fourth quarter.
“I take my hat off to Newberry,” Lake Marion coach Roy Brown said. “They came out and wanted it more than we did. We didn’t do a good job offensively at all. We beat them last year, and they were ready to come at us. They came after us hard, and the scoreboard shows it.”
The quicker, smaller Bulldogs team won the rebounding battle 44-35 and held a 20-5 advantage on second chance points.
“I sat next to the Lake Marion kids at the press conference on Monday, and I told our kids if we didn’t rebound, we would get hammered,” Cary said. “We worked on it, and our post players had the best week I’ve ever seen. They took things to heart and played absolutely incredible.”
Davenport was the leading scorer with 15 points. Lindsay, Wilson and Miller each chipped in 14 points. Newberry had a 56-20 advantage on points in the paint and 28-8 on fast-break points. Even when the Gators changed defense to try and slow the Bulldogs, it didn’t work out.
“We had to go man-to-man at some point, but we didn’t do a good job of cutting them off or boxing out,” Brown said. “We didn’t come out and play like we know how. We’re a better team than we showed tonight, but again give the credit to Newberry. They flat wore us out.”