Saturday, March 1, 2014
Wando point guard Amp Moore looked up at the scoreboard hanging high in the corner of the Florence Civic Center, turned to his bench and let out a smile with a wink. Just seconds remained. The Warriors had done it.
Wando defeated Sumter, 54-41, in the Class 4A Lower State championship game Friday to earn the first boys basketball title in school history. The Warriors advance to face Upper State champion Hillcrest in the state title game March 7 at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia.
“These guys deserve this,” Wando head coach David Eaton said. “Our players deserve this, our assistant coaches, our school. It's blood and sweat year around for these guys and they deserve all this and more.”
Wando (24-4) entered the Friday averaging 69 points per game in the playoffs, while Sumter was allowing its opponents just 34. Eaton told his team before they exited the tunnel for pregame the tougher team with the fewest mistakes was going to win the game. Wando was it.
The Warriors stretched a three-point halftime lead into 10, allowing Sumter just four points in the third quarter.
“We never backed down,” Eaton said. “It was a grind-it-out type of game and we don't care. We've had the pretty wins but I think tonight we showed we can win the hard way too.”
After managing just four points in the first half, all-state sophomore Jamez Rogers led Wando with seven of his team's 11 points in the third. Sumter scored four straight off back-to-back offensive fouls to trim the lead to eight midway through the fourth quarter. Rogers killed the momentum with a three for Wando, followed by his signature three-fingers-to-the-head celebration to assure which team was in control. Sumter never recovered and Warriors senior Andrew Glover sealed the win with five straight free throws in the final minutes.
“This is what we do,” Wando center Matt Pegram said. “This is the way coach teaches us to work in every practice. When we lock up on defense, like we know how, our offense is going to score and there's nobody in the state that can stop us.”
Pegram scored all six of his points in the first quarter to pace Wando early. The Warriors led by as many as five twice in the second quarter but needed a buzzer-beating three from Moore to go into halftime on top.
Rogers finished with a game-high 15 points. Glover added 11 and Taylor Majewski nine. Micah McBride led Sumter with 14. No other player scored more than six for Sumter.
Wando rides a six-game winning streak into Friday's state championship game.
“This win means the world but we're not done yet,” Glover said. “All our hard work is finally paying off. We set out to get five wins. We have one more to go and we're going to be ready for the fifth next Friday.”