Lower Richland earned a return trip to the Class 3A girls state championship — its first since 2009 — at the Bi-Lo Center on Saturday, defeating Wren 47-36.
“It’s really a good feeling, especially with the versatility of the talent that we have this year,” coach Debbie Stroman said. “We have so many different talents and an opportunity to play with this kind of group, it’s excellent, so why not take it all the way?”
The Diamond Hornets were led by junior Breshay Johnson’s 10 points, and got 14 points from their bench — including six from 8th-graders Kameron Roach and Cailah Hicklin.
Lower Richland had an eight-point advantage to start the second half, and never surrendered the lead.
Three-point shots from Addie Merritt and Nakol Franks helped Wren chip into that lead, but the Diamond Hornets’ physical post play kept Lower Richland ahead.
Senior Dayonshe Mitchell’s defensive pressure limited Wren’s opportunities, as Mitchell came up with three fourth-quarter steals for the Diamond Hornets.
“Our seniors really have ownership of this team,” Stroman said. “Jasmine Richardson has been around a long time and she’s solid. Dayonshe is somebody who is coming on strong and she’s just blown it out of the water with her senior year.”
Mitchell said she and her teammates had a lot more drive this year.
“Last year (at the semifinals), we didn’t put the kind of effort and fight in that we did this year,” she said. “This time, we just came out really confident and hyped for this game.”
Lower Richland led early and trailed by one point at the end of a tight first quarter.
“Those momentum shifts tend to happen for us, especially when I’m changing out the lineup and putting in younger players. It just takes a minute sometimes for the girls to settle into it and pick it back up,” Stroman said.
The Diamond Hornets started the second quarter with a 10-0 run and held a 25-17 lead going into the break.
Franks led the game with 11 points. Merritt, who fouled out with three minutes to go, posted 10 for the Hurricanes.
L: Williford 8, Mitchell 2, Brown 8, Irving 4, Roach 4, Breshay Johnson 10, Richardson 9, Hicklin 2. W: Addie Merritt 10, Nakol Franks 11, Rice 2, Matthews 5, Wagner 8.