White Knoll and River Bluff tipped it off Tuesday night in a Region 5-4A tilt as two teams going in opposite directions.
The Timberwolves were winless in region play and had lost nine off 11 entering the game. The Gators had won nine of 11 and had hopes of a first-place showdown with Irmo on Friday.
So much for trends. Myles Mathis scored 19 points, TJ Knight added 14 points with 13 rebounds and Kylie Blackett scored all 12 of his points in the fourth quarter as White Knoll withstood a barrage of early 3-pointers by River Bluff for a 68-57 victory.
White Knoll coach Jason Cochcroft thought a spirited practice on Monday made the difference.
“We killed them yesterday at practice,” he said. “We got on them about some selfishness that was creeping in and challenged them. We weren’t sure how they would come out, but they responded well.”
The Timberwolves (4-14, 1-3) had been close in most games. Only five of the 14 losses had been by more than eight points, and it was the little things that were making a difference. They would miss a box out that would lead to an easy layup. Communication would break down and either a turnover or bad defensive possession would happen.
That was cleaned up against the Gators.
“It’s been a lot of little things over and over,” Cochcroft said. “We would watch film and see it. We’ve had games where we’ve had turnovers or didn’t make shots, but a lot of it was we needed to be more unselfish, communicate on the floor and good things would happen. We did that tonight.”
The focus might have been because they were facing rival River Bluff (11-7, 2-2). Three technical fouls were called along with a double foul on one possession, but it was the ability of Mathis and Blackett in the final quarter that proved the difference.
Blackett scored 12 points in the final quarter, and Mathis added 10 to help the Timberwolves to a 26-point effort in the final period.
That was enough to overcome the performance of River Bluff guard Jamie Clarke. He scored 17 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter.
“They have that ability,” Cochcroft said of his two guards. “Myles has gotten a lot better. He can do things in the mid-range and handle the ball. Kylie is one of those guys that is quick enough to hit the light switch and get in the bed before the lights go out. He played under control and was the facilitator. Guard play in high school basketball is everything.”
For a while, it looked like River Bluff was going to shoot itself to victory. The Gators didn’t make a two-point field goal until 1:39 remained in the third quarter. But they stayed in with their ability to hit 3-pointers. The Gators made 7-of-11 from long range to begin the game and finished 8-of-15 in the first half. They cooled off in the seconds half by making just 3-of-14 from beyond the arc.
“They hit some contested shots and didn’t have a field goal inside of two-point range,” Cochcroft said. “We felt if we contested a little more they would eventually cool off.”
WK: Myles Mathis 19, TJ Knight 14, Kylie Blackett 12, Reeves 7, Brabham 6, Ludley 5, Brooker 3, Williams 2. RB: Jamie Clarke 26, Aaron Adams 14, Brandon Tillmon 10, Strehlow 6, Kight 1.
White Knoll 30, River Bluff 25
The Timberwolves jumped to a big early lead, then held on for the victory. White Knoll outscored the home team 14-4 in the second quarter for a 18-6 halftime lead. The Gators rallied late but couldn’t overcome the early deficit.
Talia Roberts scored 10 points to lead White Knoll, which improved to 5-8 overall and 2-2 in the region. Lamonia Coulter scored 10 points for River Bluff. The Gators fall to 7-10, 0-4.
WK: Talia Roberts 10, Weeks 6, Squirewell 4, Barnes 4, Gaffney 4. RB: Lamonia Coulter 10, Scott 9, Howell 2, Kinard 2, Taylor 2.