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INDIAN LAND – The beat goes on for the No. 5 Indian Land Warriors.
Indian Land, 22-2, rolled to its 12th straight win, a 92-75 victory over North Central High School in the opening round of the Class AA Upper State playoffs.
The Warriors started a tad slow, but soon got on track to post the 17-point win over the Knights.
Indian Land, on a run of treys, snapped a 11-11 draw as senior guard Haydan Sawyer drilled a three to put Indian Land on top 14-11.
Rakym Felder followed with two straight treys and Darnell Rodgers drilled a three to give IL a 24-17 lead after a period of play.
“We had some early jitters which happens in the playoffs, but we picked up the pace to take control of the game,” IL coach Nate Smith said. “North Central plays in a tough region for basketball, so we knew we had to play well and take control of the contest.”
The Warriors, on a sizzling 32-16 second period charge, forged a 55-33 halftime lead and stayed on top.
“The key for us was that we started to hit from the outside and that opened up our inside game,” Smith said. “That really was the key to it.”
Sawyer netted nine of his 16 points in the second period, with 12 coming in the opening half.
Rakym Felder, who drilled 23 points, including 21 first-half points, scored 10 in the second period.
Darnell Rodgers, who hit 28, including five treys, scored 14 in each half.
Rodgers tallied five points in the second period when the Warriors took command.
The Warriors owned a 22-point spread at the break and rolled on to the win.
“I thought our young guys played well,” Smith said. “We have to maintain this momentum because it doesn’t get any easier as you go on in the playoffs.”
Connor Butler hit 13, Chris Brown and Mark Morton each tallied three. Dell Rivers, Quantra Taylor and Lee McCall each hit two points.
Jeremy Fowler led the 3-15 Knights with 28 points. Brady Brister had 16 and Josh Jones scored 14. Kanan Hough added 10 points.
Warriors face Griffins
The Warriors will advance to host Fairfield Central of Winnsboro on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m.
Fairfield Central downed Andrew Jackson, the third-place team out of Region IV-AA, 72-60 on Wednesday, Feb. 13 in Winnsboro.
The Griffins forged a 20-14 lead after a period and held a 32-30 edge at the half.
Fairfield Central outscored AJ 18-11 in the third period to post a 50-41 lead.
The Vols rallied to slice the gap to seven on a Cameron McIsaac trey at the 3:30 mark, but couldn’t get closer.
“That third period hurt us when Fairfield Central was able to build its margin,” AJ coach Danny Wright said. “We missed some inside baskets and that led to some transition buckets for them.
“Our guys played hard, but we didn’t execute down the stretch the way we needed.”
Junior standout Quadarius Fair led AJ with 21 points and Avalon Truesdale tallied 16. Dustin Eddins and Wade Eubanks each had six points.
Trey King and Tilson Kirkland each netted four and McIsaac added three points.
The 15-7 Griffins were led by Keith Workman’s 29 points. Jayln Davis netted 18. Compton Walker hit 12 and Daniel Maple finished with 11 points.
The AJ seniors included Avalon Truesdale, Zack Clyburn, William Cunningham, Wade Eubanks, Deshawn Kirkland and Tilson Kirkland.
“I’m going to miss these seniors,” Wright said. “They’re a special group which I’ve coached going back to middle school. I wish them the best and appreciate what they did for our program in their careers at AJ.
“As for our season, we accomplished a lot of goals, the biggest were having a winning season (13-10) and making the playoffs,” Wright said. “This is something to build on as we move on. I feel we’re moving in the right direction and look forward to next season.”
The Vols were also ranked in the Class AA top 10 earlier in the season.
The winner of the Indian Land vs. Fairfield Central game will move on to face the winner of the Cheraw vs. Keenan game on Wednesday, Feb. 20.
Keenan ripped Chesterfield, 80-31 and Cheraw topped Columbia, 47-45.