GREENVILLE - Lower Richland's quest for a fifth consecutive state championship ended Saturday night in Greenville, as the Diamond Hornets were stopped by Daniel 59-46 in the Class 3A Upper State final.
"It was great to even be here, but I wish we could have won one more," said senior post Ashley Edmond, who had five points and seven rebounds for Lower Richland.
Senior point guard Jasmine Harrison, the Diamond Hornets' only three-year starter, scored 18 points to lead Lower Richland (18-7). Harrison hit three of her five shots from three-point range.
"Jasmine got some really good looks and we wanted to make sure that she didn't get down," coach Debbie Stroman said. "She really went out well."
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"They did all they could. They really wanted to win this one. They talked about it all week," Stroman said.
But the Diamond Hornets, whose young team overcame early-season growing pains to earn the Region 4-3A title, did not get the strong start they needed against the Lions (24-2).
Daniel penetrated the lane at will, and got second chances on nearly every lay-up. The Diamond Hornets could not stop Daniel posts Allison Droddy and Carly Hoover, who combined for 17 points. Point guard Sherece Smith led the Lions' charge with 17 points, while Anicia Dotson scored 13.
"Their point guard obviously is a catalyst for them, and if anybody can stop her ,they could have a chance," Stroman said.
Lower Richland's hopes were stunted by a weak first quarter. The Diamond Hornets came out cold, and fell behind 15-0 in three minutes. Lower Richland got on the board at the 4:22 mark, with sophomore Justice Nathan hitting two free throws. But the squad was 0-for-9 from the field in that opening stretch, and 3-for-13 in the quarter. Bea Williams' put-back and two baskets from Harrison kept the Diamond Hornets at a manageable distance. They trailed by 10 at the end of the period.
"We expected a lot better from the kids in the beginning. I think it was just jitters at that point," Stroman said.
Lower Richland got its deficit down to eight points twice in the second quarter, but turnovers and rebounding troubles kept them from getting any closer. The Diamond Hornets' ninth turnover of the game, with 24 seconds left in the half, led to a fastbreak layup from Dotson to set the halftime score at 30-17.
Daniel's lead swelled to 21 points late in the third quarter.
"We knew going in that we had a challenge and we were going to have to play really hard," Edmond said. "Even when we got down by 20, we still had to stay in it."
The loss was Lower Richland's first in the playoffs since 2005.