CHARLESTON - Mission 3:5 is still intact.
Lexington used a balanced attack to advance to the Class 4A state championship game for the first time since 2000 with a 72-61 victory against defending champion Goose Creek on Friday night at The Citadel's McAlister Fieldhouse.
Since early January, the Wildcats have worn T-shirts in warm-ups that have had the saying, "Mission 3:5," which happens to be the date of next Friday's state championship game where the Wildcats will face Gaffney, who knocked off Easley in the Upper State Final.
The idea came about one day when the team devotional came from Proverbs 3:5. Even though it's not relative to basketball, coach Bailey Harris had the date of the state title game on the chalkboard in the locker room and that became the rallying cry.
It was something that came about by coincidence but has caught fire. On a large rock out front of Lexington High School, "Mission 3:5" is painted in blue and gold.
"It was a two-fold thing," Harris said. "That was our verse for the day, and our mission has been to get to the state championship game."
For the second consecutive game, the Wildcats got key contributions from more than sophomore standout Shaq Roland. Senior Corey Hendren carried Lexington early with fellow seniors David Burns, Adrian Wigfall and Matt Jergenson making key plays.
Add in solid efforts off the bench from Brandon Adams, Alex Lail and Michael Spires and the Wildcats will be going to the state title game for the fifth time with the goal of winning a third state championship in Harris' 23 years at the helm.
"We had three starters sitting out the last two or three minutes of the half and the lead went from three to seven," Harris said. "That was big. I just finished telling them this was a total team effort. Everybody that played stepped up and did their thing."
It was a 15-7 spurt at the end of the third quarter that gave Lexington (25-5) control. Goose Creek trimmed a 33-26 halftime lead to 33-31 when the Wildcats asserted themselves.
David Burns started things with two free throws when Harris told the 6-foot-1 Roland to post up on offense even though he had picked up his third foul earlier in the quarter.
Roland scored seven of the next nine points and the lead was 44-35 after his three-point play late in the period.
"I have confidence in my teammates and they kept us in the game," Roland said. "I just happened to be open in that situation. It was a total effort."
Hendren finished with the final four points - including a rebound basket off a missed Roland free throw with a second remaining to make it 48-38 going into the fourth quarter.
The Gators would get no closer than eight points in the final quarter. By the end, the Goose Creek bleachers were nearly empty while the Lexington faithful cheered the end of a 10-year drought of state title appearances.
"Burns and Wigfall controlled the tempo entirely," Harris said. "When they wanted to run, they ran. If they wanted to slow it down, they backed it back out. I thought this was our best effort in a while. This is a good feeling."
Hendren made three 3-pointers in the first half when he had 13 of his 19 points. Burns and Roland did the bulk of their damage in the second half. Of Burns' 17 points, 10 came in the second half.
Roland led the way with 21 points - with 14 coming in the second half despite being in foul trouble for the final 14 minutes.
"I don't think anybody cares who gets the credit," Harris said. "They enjoy playing with each other and want to win. There is no substitute for team chemistry."
Goose Creek (23-4) was led by DeVontae Wright's 19 points.
GC: DeVontae Wright 19, James Robinson 10, Brandon Shell 10, White 3, R. Robinson 8, Williams 5, Dicks 3, Ham 3. L: Shaq Roland 21, Corey Hendren 19, David Burns 17, Wigfall 6, Jergenson 5, Lail 2, Spires 2.