Lexington's magical run through the Class 4A playoffs came to an abrupt end Friday night in the state championship game.
Gaffney used a dominating inside presence to wash away the disappointment of last season with a 71-57 victory against the Wildcats at Colonial Life Arena. It is the Indians fourth title in eight years.
Former USC star, NFL All-Pro wide receiver and Gaffney alum Sidney Rice was in attendance, but the talk after the game was that Gaffney might have become a basketball school instead of a football factory.
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"You have to say we're a basketball school now, not just football," all-state guard Josh Corry said.
Lexington coach Bailey Harris had three concerns coming into the Wildcats' first title game appearance in 10 years. He thought his team did well enough on two of them. They limited Corry to nine points and also protected the ball. But it was their inability to rebound that proved be costly.
Even though the Wildcats (25-6) were bigger inside, Gaffney (27-2) repeatedly scored on second or third chances. They ended with an 18-7 scoring advantage in that area. The Indians collected 18 offensive rebounds. The Wildcats had eight.
"We did ourselves in by giving up too many offensive boards," Harris said. "Then on the other end, we didn't get many offensive boards, and that was the difference in the ball game. It was a concern coming in, and we couldn't keep them off the glass."
Harris said he couldn't place the blame on any one person.
"We didn't do a great job of positioning," he said. "It was a team thing. They had us spread out a little bit, and that hurt us underneath."
Gaffney coach Mark Huff agreed that rebounding was the difference.
"Even on the defensive end, we held them to one and out," Huff said. "We thought they might give us some trouble, but our kids did a good job of blocking out and reaching up and grabbing those."
Gaffney led by as many as 13 in the first half and held a 35-24 lead at the break, but the second half turned into a game of runs.
First Lexington tied the score at 37 with a 13-2 run to start the half. Shaq Roland, who finished with 22 points, got things started then tied the game with back-to-back layups.
The Indians answered with a 10-0 run. They scored on five straight possessions while Lexington had their worst stretch of turnovers. Two of the baskets came after steals in the back-court.
But the runs didn't end there. The Wildcats answered with a 14-2 spurt and took their only lead of the second half when David Burns scored on the opening possession of the fourth quarter.
"They made a run on us, but we always had an answer," Huff said. "We knew it was going to be a game like that, and luckily we had the last big run."
Quinshad Davis and Dershawn Dawkins combined to score 13 straight points for Gaffney and the lead was 61-51 with about two minutes remaining.
"I think when we got the lead back that time, it took some of the wind out of their sails," Huff said.
Lexington got a three-point play from Brandon Adams and 3-pointer from Adrian Wigfall to trim the lead to 63-57 with a minute to go. But the Wildcats didn't score from there, and the Indians scored the final eight points of the game.
David Burns and Corey Hendren pitched in 12 points each for Lexington, but they only had six players score.
While Corry didn't score much, the Indians got a balanced attack that saw 10 different players reach the scoring column.
"Josh never cares how many he scores, just as long as we win," Huff said. "He wanted a state championship and now he has one. Those seniors have thought about this for a year. It's all on them. I just get to sit over and watch it."
G: Dershawn Dawkins 16, Corry 9, Quinshad Davis 15, Wray 2, M. Wright 2, Zevonta Shands 11, W. Smith 6, Miller 2, C. Smith 2, Peak 6. L: David Burns 12, Shaq Roland 22, Wigfall 7, Adams 3, Corey Hendren 12, Jergenson 1. Rec: Gaffney 27-2; Lexington 25-6.