Lexington closed the regular season on a high note on Thursday, defeating crosstown rival White Knoll 66-57.
The Wildcats (17-9, 7-3) finished in a first-place tie with North Augusta in the final Region 5-4A standings, but the Yellow Jackets will be the region’s No. 1 seed in the state playoffs.
As a No. 2 seed, Lexington will host either Spring Valley or Richland Northeast in a first-round game on Wednesday.
White Knoll (14-11, 4-6) finished in a fourth-place tie with Dutch Fork, but needed a win over the Wildcats to make the postseason.
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“Being the No. 2 seed means we’ll be drawing a very good team in the first round, so it’s a tough road ahead because we didn’t get the No. 1 seed,” Lexington coach Bailey Harris said. “But that’s basketball.”
The Wildcats broke open a close game in the fourth quarter with a 14-5 run for a 57-45 lead with 4:51 to play.
Lexington was efficient offensively, especially in the second half when it shot 11-for-17 from the field (65 percent). The decisive 23-17 move over the final eight minutes featured 5-for-7 shooting from the field and a 12-for-13 effort at the free-throw line.
“We shot the ball well from the perimeter and that just makes things so much easier for us,” Harris said. “We were 1-for-18 on 3-pointers on Tuesday (in a loss to Dutch Fork), and tonight we hit three 25-footers right off the bat. When we get outside shooting like we did tonight, it opens so many other things up.”
Four players scored in double figures for the Wildcats, but senior Nygel Gates carried the team in the second half. Gates scored 20 of his team-high 25 points after the break and went 8-for-9 at the line in the fourth quarter.
“Nygel is a tough matchup for a lot of teams,” Harris said. “He kind of took charge with the game on the line. He got rebounds at the defensive end, made some nice passes and had some strong moves to the basket. And he made the free throws when we really needed them.”
Nelson Spence (14), Mav Bishop (12) and Grant Hendrix (11) backed Gates with solid production.
“It was a good performance, a good way to go into the playoffs,” said Harris.
White Knoll point guard Emarius Logan rang up 27 points and five assists, but it was not enough to keep the youthful Timberwolves’ season alive.
“We knew coming in that we had to win to get in (to the playoffs),” White Knoll coach Bret Jones said.
“We gave it our best shot but our youth and lack of depth showed up in the second half. For playing so many young guys, we had some good things happen this season. I’m excited about the future.”
L: Stokes 2, Mav Bishop 12, Grant Hendrix 11, Nelson Spence 14, Nygel Gates 25, Blake 2. WK: Emarius Logan 27, Dorrah 4, Julian Johnson 10, Tillmon 9, Garvin 7, Knight 2.