In one quarter, North Myrtle Beach went from a top-seeded team very much in control of its own destiny to a squad wondering how its season ended so quickly.
The Chiefs were defeated at home Tuesday by fourth-seeded Crestwood 63-58 in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs. It was a disappointing end to a season in which coach Frank Moorehead’s team won the Region VII-AAA crown and several players garnered awards.
And while the Chiefs had several opportunity to escape the upset in the final moments, there’s no mistaking that North Myrtle Beach’s chances against the Knights changed after region Player of the Year Jaquan Grissett fouled out late in the third quarter.
“Jaquan’s been great for us all year,” guard Josh Lindsey said. “He’s made some big shots. He kept us in a lot of games. With him out of the game, we didn’t really have that point guard who could handle the ball and take the game over. That really hurt us.”
The end of Grissett’s high school career was strange at best. He entered the second half with 13 points and no fouls. The latter changed quickly, though. He was whistled for back-to-back fouls early in the third. He was called for another midway through the period.
Then, with 27.5 seconds left in the same quarter, he was called for a loose-ball foul near the Crestwood basket. An animated Grissett was then given a technical, ending the career 1,000-point scorer’s night.
The Knights, who entered the fourth quarter up one point, then seized the opportunity.
Led by 26 points from guard Seth Fitzgerald, Crestwood capped off the comeback after trailing by as many as 14 midway through the third.
“They were tough to guard,” Moorehead said. “They have shooters, and they have penetrators. We’ve had trouble against teams like that all year – Wilson, Myrtle Beach – teams of that nature. If you zone them, they shoot it; if you play man, they penetrate. It’s a tough matchup for us.”
North Myrtle Beach had not won any of its seven region games by double digits. As Lindsey pointed out, many of those came after huge games from Grissett.
Moorehead said he wasn’t clear on what happened at the end the third quarter.
“I didn’t expect him to get that technical. I didn’t see what happened,” Moorehead said. “It was unfortunate. … Losing Jaquan was a difference.”
Without Grissett on the floor, the Chiefs put the ball in the hands of Josh and Matt Lindsey. Josh Lindsey finished with 23 points (including seven 3-pointers) and Matt added another 13.
It wasn’t enough for a team that was also 0-for-5 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. During that same span, Crestwood was 12-of-19.
“I thought if we got our shooters a shot, we could hang in there,” Moorehead said. “But we’ve got to get some stops. We’d foul and put them on the line. Their free-throw shooters were making them. … Ours weren’t. That was the difference. Making free throws in a game like that is everything.”