Keenan dropped a 70-62 decision to Sol C. Johnson of Savannah, Ga., in Wednesday night’s tune-up for the start of the proper Chick-fil-A Classic tournament at Richland Northeast.
The game was part of the companion Carolina Challenge Showcase event. The Raiders begin bracket play tonight against host Richland Northeast.
“I told the guys to put this behind them and get ready for the tournament,” said Raiders coach Zach Norris, whose team fell to 6-2.
“Hopefully, this won’t be an indication of what’s to come this week for us.”
Keenan got off to a terrible offensive start, converting nine of 39 field goal attempts in the first half for a shooting percentage of 23.1 percent. But the Raiders trailed only 27-24 at the break.
The visiting Atom Smashers weren’t much better in the opening 16 minutes, hitting nine of 29 shots from the field.
It all changed in the second half. The Smashers (5-1) found the range on 14 of their first 23 shots after intermission to build a 56-39 lead with 8:16 to play. Keenan cut the deficit to 64-58 with 2:31 to go, but never was closer than six points the rest of the way.
“They spread the floor on us in the second half and they have good ball handlers,” Norris said. “Once they broke us down and got penetration, we were at a big disadvantage.”
Sol C. Johnson coach Utaff Gordon hopes his team’s debut rates a full tournament invitation next year.
“I think we showed what we can do,” he said. “We were sluggish in the first half, trying to find our legs. In the second half, we wanted to spread the floor and let our kids take advantage of their athletic and individual skills.”
Tim Quarterman led the Atom Smashers with 18 points, eight assists and four steals.
Marcus Stroman paced Keenan with 26 points and six rebounds.
“We’re probably at about 50 percent of where we need to be right now,” said Norris. “My biggest concerns are inside, especially against the type of teams we’re facing right now. But this is why you play the top competition. It shows you exactly where you are as a team and what has to be addressed.”