Lexington coach Bailey Harris had a simple strategy to final play of Wednesday’s game against River Bluff – give Mason Carver the ball and get out of the way.
Carver, the Wildcats’ standout guard, proved to be up to the challenge. The senior took seven dribbles into the center of the lane and hit a floater over River Bluff’s Andrew Robinson with 0.9 seconds left to give Lexington a 58-56 win over the Gators.
“It was basic isolation play,” Carver said of the last shot. “I had the hot hand and got free for a runner in the lane and took advantage of it.
“It means a lot to do it here in front of a crowd like River Bluff, our crosstown rivals. It just feels great.”
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Harris said Carver has earned the trust of him and his teammates to take big shots near the end of the game. And he knew Carver was going to make the right choice whether to shoot it or pass it to an open player.
“The fact is his teammates have the confidence to give him the ball to do it,” Harris said. “They trust him to make good decisions whether to take a shot or get rid of the ball. That’s what we trust all of our guys to do.”
River Bluff had a chance to tie or win but never got a good look. Lexington students stormed the court, and Carver’s teammates lifted him on their shoulders in celebration.
The victory clinched the Wildcats first unbeaten season in school history. Lexington (26-0) will open up the playoffs Wednesday at home against South Florence.
Lexington has homecourt advantage all the way to the Class 5A Lower State championship in Florence.
“It started in the summer after last season ended. We knew with nine seniors coming back we had something special,” Carver said. “And the hard work has paid off.”
“I never saw this coming,” Harris said of the 26-0 mark. “Even when we went through the region the first time. But they did a good job of staying in the moment and not looking ahead. They are ready to play no matter who it is or where it is.”
Carver finished with 26 points, and it was the second time in the last three games he hit a game-winning shot. On Friday, he hit a layup with 0.4 seconds left to give Lexington a comeback 46-44 win over Dutch Fork.
Just like Friday, the Wildcats trailed for much of the game against the Gators. River Bluff led by as many as 10 points in the first half and were ahead 50-43 with 3:57 left. But Lexington went on a 7-0 run, and Ryan Green’s 3-pointer tied it at 50 with 1:34 left.
After River Bluff went up 54-50, Carver hit a 3-pointer and Bradley Foulks hit his only field goal of the game, a 3-pointer to put the Wildcats up 56-54. The Gators’ JT Reeves hit a pair of free throws to tie it at 56 with 12.9 seconds left.
Green added 11 for Lexington and Jonathan Corley had 10.
Reeves led River Bluff with 19 points and Terrill Windom had 13. Andrew Robinson added 12 including eight in the fourth quarter. River Bluff will open up the playoffs at home Wednesday.
In the girls’ game, South Carolina signee Olivia Thompson scored 19 points to help Lexington past River Bluff, 69-27, and give the Wildcats a share of the Region 5-5A title with Dutch Fork. Lexington will play Dutch Fork in a one-game playoff for the region title Friday at River Bluff.
RB: Terrill Windom 13, Trottier 2, Spencer 2, Cusaac 6, JT Reeves 19, Andrew Robinson 12, Reeves 2 .L: Mason Carver 26, Reed 2, Ryan Green 11, Folks 4, Edwards 3, Long 2, Jonathan Corley 10.
L: Olivia Thompson 19, Claire Tarlton 12, Brooke Foulks 10, Monroe 7, Sexton 6, Huntley 6, Johnson 2, Nichols 2. RB: Perry 10, Smith 5, Heldreth 4, Rozier 4, Coats 2, Marren 2.