There have been times this season when Corey Hendren has been the forgotten weapon in Lexington's offensive arsenal.
Not this time.
When Sumter employed a zone defense for most of a Class 4A quarterfinal Tuesday, Hendren connected on five 3-pointers - including two during a crucial stretch of the fourth quarter - to propel the Wildcats to a 67-61 victory.
Lexington will play in the state semifinals for the first time since 2000. The Wildcats (24-5) will face defending champion Goose Greek for the Lower State championship on Friday at The Citadel's McCalister Field House in Charleston. The Gators eliminated Fort Dorchester Tuesday night.
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"Corey has three points in the last game and he comes out and hits big shot after big shot," Lexington coach Bailey Harris said. "He was a difference-maker with Shaq (Roland) struggling to score."
Hendren made half of the Wildcats' 3-pointers as they shot 10-of-18 from beyond the arc.
The two biggest ones came after the Gamecocks (21-5) had erased an 18-point first-half deficit. Sumter used a 17-1 run that began in the first half when it scored the final seven points and then opened the third quarter on a 10-1 run to pull within 39-37.
The Gamecocks tied it at 41 on a layup by Mike James with two minutes remaining in the third, but the Wildcats scored the final five points of the quarter. David Burns, who led the Wildcats with 22 points, drained a 3 after Lexington had missed eight consecutive shots.
Sumter turned it over on its next possession, and Lexington ran the clock down before ending the quarter with an alley-oop dunk by Roland for a 46-41 lead. Sumter got to within two points the rest of the way, but the Wildcats never wilted.
"That was big," Harris said of the way his team ended the quarter. "We were dead in the water at that point. But we never lost our composure or got rattled. We just kept playing."
Hendren then sank two 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter to push the lead to 55-47 with just over five minutes remaining. He got free in the corner each time for uncontested shots.
"For all the things we did wrong, we made four big mistakes by not guarding Hendren," Sumter coach Nate Livesay said. "We knew if we made a mistake on Hendren, he would hurt us. But we made bad decisions on four of the five threes he made and left him wide open."
Matt Jergenson finished with eight points for Lexington, but five of them came on three consecutive possessions after Sumter got to within 55-53 with 2:46 remaining. He scored on a layup, a free throw and another layup to make it a two-possession game.
"Jergenson getting those points after being nowhere to be found offensively was huge," Harris said. "The two baskets were in traffic and not easy. That allowed us to regain the lead and keep our composure."
Roland had 34 points in the second-round victory against Berkeley on Saturday, but Sumter had a frontline that went 6-foot-6, 6-7, and 6-9, and the super sophomore was limited to nine points. His ability to drive in the lane was limited, and when he did penetrate, he often was forced to alter his shots.
When the Wildcats were able to get inside the Gamecocks' zone, they were able to kick it out to an open 3-pointer shooter. Hendren finished with 16 points, and Adrian Wigfall pitched in 10.
"Give Lexington credit," Livesay said. "They made plays when they needed, and that was a big difference."
Lexington 67, Sumter 61
S: Kameron Dunnican 19, David Henderson 13, Eren Moses 12, Rogers 6, Robinson 4, Woods 3, James 2, Pair 2. L: David Burns 22, Corey Hendren 16, Adrian Wigfall 10, Roland 9, Jergenson 8, Adams 2. Rec: S 21-5; L 24-5.