If the region 4-3A boys basketball opener between Dreher and Lower Richland is any indication of the next several weeks, the last one standing among this crowd will be a favorite in the postseason.
The newly top-ranked Blue Devils got 32 points from Tevin Mack and 15 from Grayson Stiglbauer to hold off the upset-minded Diamonds 58-55 in front of a packed gym Tuesday night.
Dreher coach Jeff DiBattisto was pleased to come away with the win but understands his team has to get better to run this gauntlet in Region 4-3A, which includes defending champion A.C. Flora, Camden, Richland Northeast and Chapin.
“I’m definitely not satisfied,” he said. “I think defensively we have to get so much better. We have to understand we have to get multiple stops in a row. You can’t just get one every three or four possessions and be good enough. The good thing is we have time to get better.”
Mack, a VCU commitment, had a mental lapse late in the game that gave Lower Richland (4-8) one final chance to force overtime. After getting fouled with 4.8 seconds remaining, Mack was whistled for a technical foul for pushing one of the Diamond players. Mack made one of his two free throws before Jared Richardson also made 1-of-2 to make it a three-point contest. Lower Richland had the ball because of the technical, and Richardson, who scored a team-high 22 points, got a good look from straight away but his shot went off the back iron.
“We were fortunate that one of their guys lost their cool and got a technical and it gave us a chance to tie the game,” first-year Lower Richland coach Mark Burnitz said. “If it was about two inches shorter, it would have been a tie game.”
Mack scored 16 points in each half and the final five, but the play of Stiglbauer in the first half turned out to be instrumental. The senior scored 12 of his 15 points in the opening two quarters and was a menace on the inside. He added eight rebounds in his best all-around performance of the season.
The Blue Devils (11-3) had to play most of the night without point guard Deandre Nathaniel, who tweaked his knee on Saturday. That opened the door for Stiglbauer to become the second scoring option, and he made the most of it.
“I thought the difference in the game was Grayson Stiglbauer,” DiBattisto said. “I thought he played fantastic. He kept us in the game in the first half and made some big buckets down the stretch. He’s a guy that doesn’t get a whole lot of credit, but I thought he was the difference in this game. We’re still looking for those second, third and fourth scoring options after Tevin.”
Richardson’s second half effort kept Lower Richland within striking distance. The senior guard scored 17 of his 22 points in the second half.
“Mack is a great player, but Jared can do it all too,” Burnitz said. “I wouldn’t trade him. He can handle the ball, shoot the three, go the to hole and he has the quickest hands I’ve ever seen. His effort is always the best, too.”