In their opening game of the Chick-fil-A Classic, Lower Richland defeated Spring Valley 67-59 at Richland Northeast on Wednesday.
Though the Diamond Hornets led for all but two minutes — twice by 14 points — they played an up-and-down game that left first-year coach Willie Thomas looking for more.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Thomas, whose team improved to 4-4.
Lower Richland led by 11 at halftime, but Spring Valley made several second-half surges that cut that advantage to three points.
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“It felt like we had a run and then we stopped, we ran and then we stopped and we never finished,” Spring Valley coach Perry Dozier said.
PJ Dozier put up 18 of his game-leading 25 points in the half, and Dominique Taylor added six, but it was not enough to make up for the Vikings’ slow start.
Early on, the squads wrestled for control of the tempo — Lower Richland playing its best in transition while Spring Valley got its better looks off set plays. But while Lower Richland posted 15 points off fastbreaks and turnovers, the Vikings went 1-10 from the floor in the first eight minutes.
“We started off flat and when we start off flat, it’s always a long day for us,” Perry Dozier said.
Marcus Edmond led the Diamond Hornets with 16 points, while the post play of Vincent Hicklin and Brandon Stroman helped Lower Richland hold on to its advantage, as Lower Richland outscored Spring Valley 40-32 in the paint.
“Brandon is probably the most athletic kid we’ve got. He can block shots and get to the rim, so it’s important to have him in there,” Thomas said. “Hicklin, this is probably his first season being the go-to guy, and he’s coming along with it.”
Early in the second half, PJ Dozier and Dominique Taylor turned up the heat on the Vikings’ offense, making it a two-possession game with a 6-1 run. But with 5:55 remaining, the Vikings were again facing a 14-point deficit.
Thomas is hoping the Diamond Hornets show up with a stronger defense when they play their next game of the Classic II bracket, slated for 7 p.m. Friday.