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Falcons fall in state semis

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Heritage's Dyson Pender, right, goes up for a shot while being guarded by South Central's Day'ron Sharpe during their game on March 3, 2018 at Minges Coliseum. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By JORDAN ANDERS
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Saturday was supposed to be about redemption for South Central's boys' basketball team, having made it back to the same regional final round of the playoffs where last season ended so bitterly.

Instead, the Falcons were left with the same result, a bitterly close defeat in the 4-A East championship game. This time, it was No. 3 seed Heritage that claimed a 61-55 victory in overtime in Minges Coliseum and sent SC home one game shy of the state finals.

The Falcons finished 27-1. They have lost just three games in the last two seasons, but two of those have been on the state semifinal stage.

A pair of free throws by Day'ron Sharpe tied the game and forced overtime with nine seconds remaining, and a layup by Sharpe gave SC a 53-51 lead in the early seconds of overtime. THe Huskies, though, outscored South Central 10-2 the rest of the way, leaving coach Chris Cherry and his players to again stomach a tough end to a season.

"I told them how proud I was of them, but nothing I say they want to hear right now," Cherry said, "so we'll take a couple of days and then we'll reflect on the season that we've had.

"We had a fine season. We won't let one game define our season, but at the same point, it's real disappointing to get back to the same point and just not rebound the basketball.”

Heritage out-rebounded the Falcons by one, 35-34, but perhaps the largest one came in the waning seconds of overtime. With the Huskies clinging to a 56-55 lead, guard Dyson Pender went to the free throw line with 24.5 seconds remaining.

Pender split the free throws, missing the second, but Virginia Tech signee Jarren McAllister swooped in and collected the rebound to force SC to foul again. McAllister, who finished with 17 points, made both free throws to push the lead to four and essentially seal it.

That was the ending to a frustrating overtime period that saw South Central squander multiple chances to control the final couple of minutes.

"We scored, we got a stop, then we missed two free throws and we get another stop, then we had three tips right there around the rim with (6-foot-9), 6-7 guys that don't go in," Cherry said. "From then, it kind of spiraled out of control. ... If we get that, it's a two- (or) three-possession game with under three minutes to go, then they feel the pressure a little bit."

Heritage senior and East Carolina signee Jayden Gardner scored a game-high 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds in his future home arena before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.

Shykeim Phillips led SC with 17 points as one of three Falcons in double figures. Sharpe added 13 and eight rebounds, and Jahzeer Baker scored 11.

SC, which won at No. 1 seed Garner on Tuesday, led 22-19 at halftime.

Greene Central 61

Clinton 57

A year after a 25-point loss in the 2-A East finals, Greene Central made good on its second straight trip to the finals by knocking off Clinton and clinching a spot in next week's state championship game.

The No. 9 seed Rams (26-6) held the No. 2 Dark Horses (27-2) to 13 points in the first quarter and rolled in the second half behid four double-digit scorers.

Rhaheem Edwards and Donte Johnson scored 16 apiece, with Imajae Dodd adding 12 and DonQuez Davis scoring 11.

Dodd added seven rebounds and five blocks in an impressive all-around performance that helped the Rams move beyond last season, when they were a No. 1 seed and beaten 72-47 by Northside-Jacksonville.

"It's just been a different feeling," said GC coach Charles Harris, who was formerly an assistant at South Central. "We talked about it today in shootaround (that) it was more of a calm. Last year, we were kind of excited just to be there, but all this week, after Tuesday night (winning in the regional semifinals), we've gone through our regular routines and done our stuff.

"These guys were relaxed. We came in and I thought we didn't play uptight, and I guess you can see the result."

Zion Autry scored 14 to lead Clinton, which used a late flurry to close the final margin after trailing by double digits for most of the fourth quarter.

Contact Jordan Anders at janders@reflector.com, 252-329-9594 and follow @ReflectorJordan on Twitter.

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