The drive for five is alive at Lower Richland.
Debbie Stroman's four-time defending state champion Diamond Hornets, who fell out of the rankings for the first time in at least five years late in the regular season, survived a challenge from visiting Travelers Rest on Monday, escaping with a 59-56 decision in the third round of the Class 3A girls basketball playoffs.
It was the 23rd consecutive postseason win for Lower Richland, which moves on to face Tuesday night's Daniel-J.L. Mann winner in the Upper State championship game on Friday at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville.
"We had our struggles this year trying to fit things together, but when we dropped out of the rankings, I challenged the girls, and they responded," said Stroman, whose team improved to 18-6.
But getting past the feisty Devildogs was hardly a lark.
Travelers Rest, led by senior guard Kayla Jenerette's game-high 24 points, forged a 25-18 lead at the 2:49 mark of the second quarter. The Diamond Hornets responded with a 12-6 run to cut the deficit to 31-30 by halftime. Lower Richland then controlled the flow of the game for most of the second half and had its largest lead, 53-46, with 3:01 to go.
The Devildogs, however, never gave in and pulled within 55-54 on three free throws by Rebecca Clanton with 59 seconds remaining.
Enter Jasmine Harrison, Lower Richland's senior leader, who sank four three throw attempts down the stretch, the final two setting the final score with 16 second left. Travelers Rest had one more opportunity to tie but missed an open 3-point shot just before time expired.
Harrison finished with 23 points, scoring all six of her fourth-quarter points in the final 1:26.
"Jasmine is a great player, and she did what a leader is supposed to do when it matted the most," Stroman said.
"But we had a lot of different kids come up big for us at different points in the game."
Freshman Jasmine Richardson contributed 12 points, five rebounds and three steals before fouling out in the final minute. Ashley Edmond and Beatrice Williams were dominant inside at key times in the second half. And Stroman was pleased with the results of a switch to a pressure man-to-man defense against Jenerette in the second half, with Justice Nathan, Staci Harris and Quanisha Rice taking turns hounding the Travelers Rest star.
TR: Kayla Jenerette 24, Rebecca Clanton 18, McCarson 1, Medlin 5, Melton 8. LR: Harris 1, Jasmine Harrison 23, Jasmine Richardson 12, Edmond 8, Williams 6, Nathan 2, Rice 4, Davis 3, Montgomery 2.