High School Sports

Darlington upends Dreher in playoff opener

Top-seed Blue Devils have off night as Falcons hold on late for the upset

Dreher didn't draw a typical first round opponent in the Class 3A girl's basketball playoffs.

The top-seeded, Region 5-3A Blue Devils faced fourth-seeded Darlington from Region 6-3A, a team that owns two wins against region champ Marlboro County and still had a chance to win the region on the final night of the regular season.

The Falcons used the experience gained from a deep run last season and a dominating inside presence to pull out the 58-56 upset Monday night at Dreher.

"We had a few games where we were down to eight players, and we battled injuries all year," Darlington coach Jesse Barber said. "We're back at full strength now. There were a lot of things we didn't do well bur we found a way to pull the game out."

Darlington (15-7) was the 3A runner-up last year to Lower Richland and played with poise in crucial situations down the stretch to hold on.

The Falcons trailed by four points early in the fourth quarter, but behind the play of junior Jazma Green, they went ahead by five with just under two minutes remaining. Green and Jessica McCall scored four points each in the 13-4 run to make it 55-50.

But the Blue Devils (15-7) didn't go away. Shakeina Smith hit a free throw and Tequila McNeal drained a 3-pointer from the corner to make it 56-54 with 35 seconds to go. Dreher called a timeout and forced a turnover on the inbounds pass.

Smith, who finished with 21 points, was fouled on a drive and connected on both free throws to tie it at 56 with 29 seconds remaining. Green, who had a game-high 24 points, made a free throw with three seconds later for a one-point lead.

But the Blue Devils would not get a shot off with the game on the line. Shequin Weiters stole a pass that was going to the wing and was fouled. After making one, Dreher turned it over twice more in the backcourt without ever getting a chance for the tie.

"We were stagnant on offense, standing around looking" Dreher coach Teresa Jones said. "We didn't play like we normally do. The turnovers and poor defense, not moving our feet, playing against a team as good as Darlington just will not cut it."

Darlington made the majority of their shots inside the paint and their aggressive drives to the basket sent them to the free throw line where they were 26-of-41. Dreher settled for outside shots and made 12-of-18 from the line.

"The outside shots weren't falling, so we told them to drive the ball to the basket." Barber said,

Jones thought her defense, which usually carries the Blue Devils, was out of sync most of the night.

"Normally we play pretty well on defense," Jones said. "There were spurts where we played good defense and spurts where we had lapses. They just did not communicate well."

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DA: Jazma Green 24, Shequin Weiters 10, Keyairria Ervin 10, McCall 6, Jenkins 5, Scott 3. DR: Shakeina Smith 21, Tequila McNeal 13, Lauren Dreher 11, Sullivan 5, Duckett 4, Brown 2.

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