- Special Sections
- Public Notices
As dusk fell outside the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville late Saturday afternoon, inside the massive arena Indian Land Warriors’ bright basketball season flickered to a tough close.
Defending Class AA state basketball champion Keenan, bidding for another shining March moment, was brilliant in a 65-36 win over IL.
The Raiders’ glowing 29-point win gave the Columbia area team a second straight Upper State championship and a bid to the Class AA state title game opposite Lower State champion Mullins on Saturday.
“We had a great season,” Warriors coach Nate Smith said. “Today, we just ran into the defending champs. Their experience was a factor.”
The 24-3 Raiders, living up to their top-rated billing, built an early lead and steadily pulled away for the victory.
KHS freshman Marcus Storming scored seven of his 10 points in the opening period to stake the Raiders to an 18-10 lead.
Keenan held a 22-14 edge with six minutes to play in the opening half, and the Raiders used an 8-4 flurry to close the half for a 30-18 halftime lead.
Erick Tisdale, with his solid inside play, sparked a late run with six of his 10 points to boost KHS to a 12-point halftime lead.
Keenan built a 33-18 lead early in the third period, but the Warriors played big behind their smallest and youngest player – eighth-grade guard Darnell Rodgers.
Rodgers, at 5-5, triggered a 9-0 run with a pair of threes to slice into the Keenan lead to 33-27.
As fast as the Warriors closed the gap, Keenan quickly answered to take control of the game with a critical 11-0 run.
A Cure ton’s trey ignited the spree and Quinton Johnson’s three-point play capped the surge. Johnson’s 22 points paced the Raiders, with 12 coming in the final half.
“Keenan’s not the defending champion for nothing,” IL’s Smith said. “Champs know how to handle that kind of run.”
Keenan coach Zachary Norris called the Raiders’ charge “a blow” to the Warriors’ chances.
“That opened up everything for us,” Norris said. “They went out of their zone. When Indian Land went on that spurt, we called time and I told them to get their composure.
“We were thinking too much and I told them to start executing.”
Keenan dashed any doubt with a 9-2 surge – boosted by Johnson’s five straight points – to seal the issue.
“They know how to win games,” said IL junior star Terrell Rodgers, who hit 18 points, but only seven in the second half when he was constantly hounded by KHS’s Curenton. “They’ve been here before and this was our first time coming here. They executed their plan.”
“Keenan had a good defensive scheme,” Smith said.
“Keenan played good defense tonight and that’s why they came out on top,” IL senior Terrell Rodgers said.
Johnson led the KHS offense with 22. Stroman and Erick Tisdale hit 10 each and Curenton added nine.
Terrell Rodgers led IL with 18. Darnell Rodgers hit six. Jarrell Robinson hit four. Hayden Sawyer, Rashid McGriff, Cameron Davis, and Marty Cauthen added two points each.
Smith said the loss was disappointing, but not the season.
“We came together as a team,” Smith said. “This is a great acclomplishment where we came from. We gained respect for our program.
“I’m looking forward to next year and getting back here,” he said. “We know what we have to do to get back here.. We’re going to take a little time off, but what we do now to when the season starts is going to be important.”