Lower Richland had a lot riding on Friday night's contest with visiting Lugoff-Elgin. With two games remaining in the regular season, the Diamonds could have wrapped up Region 4-3A with a victory.
But the Demons had other plans. They rallied from a big, third-quarter deficit to hand Lower Richland it's second home loss of the season, 70-69, preventing the Diamonds from securing the top spot in the region.
The Diamonds need one more victory or losses by Lugoff-Elgin and Fairfield Central to earn the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
"This place has a lot of tradition and they had a lot riding on this game, so it was big for us to come in here and pull one out," Lugoff-Elgin coach Calvin McRoy said. "We had a tight one at our place, so we felt like we could play with them. Plus we made free throws when we had to."
Lower Richland coach Zeke Washington hopes this serves as a wake-up call to his team.
"It's a matter of us coming together and correcting some little things to make us better," Washington said. "If this doesn't wake us up, nothing will. But I have to do a better job of having us prepared."
Devonte Alexander, who finished 4-for-4 from the line, sank the clinching two free throws with 8 seconds remaining to give the Demons a three-point lead.
The Diamonds (16-7, 7-1) had a chance to force overtime, but Torrance Outting missed a 3-pointer. Lower Richland got the rebound, but instead of throwing it back out for another 3 attempt, they scored in a layup and the clock expired.
Lugoff-Elgin had a balanced attack led by 16 points from Shaq Elm. Four other players reached double figures with JoJo Pellegrino adding 14, Darius Custard and Jahred Palmer with 13 each and Rashad Alexander chipping in with 10.
"We are a pretty experienced bunch, and I think that paid off with a game like this," McRoy said. "We got contributions from a lot of people, and when we do that, we are pretty good."
Lugoff-Elgin (17-6, 5-3) jumped out to a quick 19-13 lead, but behind the strong play of Malcolm Rhett, the Diamonds used a 20-7 run to end the second quarter to take a 33-26 lead at the half. Rhett came off the bench and ignited the full-court press that turned the tide. He didn't enter the game until 5:38 remained in the half.
Rhett finished with 14 points to lead four Lower Richland players in double figures.
The lead grew to 10 points early in the third quarter, but the Demons answered with a 14-4 run highlighted by 3's from Elm and Palmer. That tied it at 41 and the lead changed hands six more times with the biggest lead by either team being a four-point advantage by Lower Richland at 49-45.
Elm scored seven points and the Demons tied it at 54 before taking the lead for good on a 3-pointer from Pellegrino.
The Diamonds could have maintained the lead but struggled from the free throw line. They finished 14-for-28 and were 8-for-22 before making the final six attempts.
"We missed 14 free throws and lose the game by one," Washington said. "That is one of the things we can correct to win the game. But unfortunately that has been typical of us lately."
LE: Shaq Elm 16, JoJo Pellegrino 14, Darius Custard 13, Jahred Palmer 13, Rashad Alexander 10, D. Alexander 4. LR: Malcolm Rhett 14, Keith Johnson 13, Dominique Miller 10, Kenneth McFadden 10, Outting 7, Taylor 6, Cole 2, Sumter 2, Eaves 3, Stephens 2.