For three quarters on Tuesday night it appeared that Ridge View’s state basketball playoff jinx was firmly in place.
The Blazers trailed host Sumter 35-28 entering the final eight minutes of the Class 4A third round contest, and faced an uphill battle to advance to the Final Four for the first time in school history.
But John Combs’ bunch pulled it off in bizarre fashion – securing a 56-50 triumph over the miffed Gamecocks, who doomed themselves by shooting 1-for-12 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. Ridge View, on the other hand, put together a decisive 28-15 move in the fourth, thanks in large part to a 12-for-14 performance at the line.
“I am really proud of how hard our guys fought back during part of the third quarter and in the fourth,” said Combs.
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“Very honestly we were very fortunate that Sumter missed some free throws that gave us a chance to get back into the game. I thought our defense did a great job of making it hard on them to score. I am extremely happy for our players and the school to get this win tonight against a great Sumter basketball team that is well coached. I thought our fans and students who traveled for the game did a great job supporting us in the hostile environment. We love playing at home, but for whatever reason we are playing our best basketball of the year now on the road.”
In fact, the Blazers are riding a nine-game winning streak with seven of the successes coming on the road.
The chief architects of the decisive rally were senior Cameron Lee, Jared Johnson and Jamaal Brantley. Lee tallied 11 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter by going 8-for-8 at the line along with one 3-pointer. Johnson scored eight of his 12 points in the final frame, while Brantley deposited seven of his 12 during the span.
The reward for Ridge View, now 19-7, is a berth in the Lower State championship game against Lexington. The all-Midlands showdown is set for Friday night at McAlister Field House on The Citadel campus in Charleston.