SUMTER - Heathwood Hall pulled away from familiar foe Ben Lippen late in the fourth quarter for a 54-47 SCISA Class 3A state quarterfinal win Wednesday at Sumter Exhibition Center.
The Highlanders will play either Wilson Hall or Hilton Head Christian in Friday's semifinals with the goal of earning the program's first SCISA championship game berth.
"This was the seventh time we've played each other in the last two seasons, so there weren't going to be many surprises," Highlanders coach Jeff Whalen said. "We figured it was going to be a close one, and we were able to make some plays and hit some big free throws at the end."
Mac Whalen did most of the work during a 39-second stretch that saw Heathwood Hall increase its 45-44 lead to 52-44 with 41 seconds to go. The senior guard accounted for all the points in the 7-0 run, all at the free-throw line. Whalen also came up with two loose balls to prevent Ben Lippen shots that put him at the line.
The game featured seven ties and 11 lead changes. The Highlanders (22-5) took the lead for good on a score by Corey Littlejohn at 5:03 of the fourth quarter. After the Falcons turned the ball over on the ensuing possession, Heathwood Hall held the ball.
Ben Lippen (19-9) did not force the issue until the two-minute mark. Whalen started his parade to the charity stripe by making one of two attempts with 1:20 remaining.
"I wanted to try to get them out of their zone so we could spread the ball and take advantage of our quickness," Jeff Whalen said. "We were also a little tired and holding the ball gave us a little break. The bonus was we got the guys we wanted at the line late in the game."
Littlejohn scored a game-high 18 points, while Whalen finished with 16. Morgan Whalen tallied 12 points and did outstanding defensive work against Falcons star Mitchell Deter, who finished with 13 points on 5-for-15 shooting.
"Unlike the last couple of years, the teams left in the tournament are dead even, so it comes down to team that executes when the game was on the line," Ben Lippen coach Mitch Shoemaker said. "We were right there, but (Heathwood) made the plays when they had to."
BL: Chad Burnett 11, Mitchell Deter 13, Derek Snelgrove 10, Smith 2, Fraley 8, Welborn 3. HH: James 6, Mac Whalen 16, English 2, Morgan Whalen 12, Corey Littlejohn 18.