For a few months last year, the idea of changing Keenan High’s name to Booker T. Washington was discussed within the community before Richland 1 officials opted for status quo.
On Saturday, Keenan’s girls basketball team earned the school a name all can agree with: state champions.
The Raiders built a 14-point second-half lead and scored nothing but free throws in the fourth quarter to beat Lee Central 54-50 in the Class 2A state final at the Colonial Center.
The victory gave Keenan (25-5) its first girls basketball state championship in the school’s second state final appearance in the sport.
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“We’re the first to actually win a championship at Keenan,” Raiders all-state senior guard Santera Grooms said. “I got me a ring going out. It feels good. It feels good.”
Lee Central (22-4), the defending state champion, lost a state final for the first time in five appearances since the school was opened in 2001.
Knee surgery in November caused Lee Central coach Dorothy Fortune to turn the team over to her assistant, James Dizzley, for most of this season. Fortune, using a walker, was on the bench Saturday.
What she saw was a poor start offensively for Lee Central that put the Stallions in a deep hole.
Lee Central made 1 of 12 first-quarter shots and 6 of 24 first-half shots as Keenan took a 23-17 halftime lead.
A Grooms 3-pointer at the 5-minute, 26-second mark of the quarter gave Keenan a 31-19 lead and a pair of Olivia Irick free throws with 4:53 left pushed the lead to 33-19.
Irick’s spin move and fade-away jump shot in the lane with 2:26 left in the quarter put Keenan ahead 37-25. The basket not only gave Keenan its final double-digit lead of the game but it also proved the Raiders final field goal.
A 3-pointer by Whitley Smith (14 points) and a pair of jump shots from Staci Holmes helped the Stallions cut Keenan’s lead to 39-33 entering the fourth quarter.
When Lechell Rush, who scored a team-high 22 points, sank two free throws with 5:33 to play, Lee was within one, 41-40.
By then, Keenan had begun its parade to the free-throw line. Keenan made 15 free throws in 22 fourth-quarter attempts. Sophomore Brittani Goodwin made 7 of 10 in the final period.
“I wasn’t nervous because my teammate Olivia said ‘No pressure,’” Goodwin said. “I just took my time on each free throw.”
She made 5 of 6 to expand the lead to 46-42. Irick, who led Keenan with 25 points, hit a free throw with 2:07 left. Grooms added two more with 1:16 left, putting Keenan up 51-44, assuring the Raiders their historic win.
“It’s big,” Keenan coach Reggie McLain said. “It’s big for the girls, big for the community, big for the school.”
Reach Wiseman at (803) 771-8472