ROCK HILL — The Rock Hill Bearcats led wire to wire en route to a 69-61 season-opening win over Gaffney, the defending Class-AAAA state champions, on Tuesday in the Rock Hill gymnasium.
But in the process, the Bearcats found Gaffney tough to shake, even with the Indians dressing only eight players, and with only two with varsity experience.
We had several who were playing out of position, Gaffney coach Mark Huff said. We had two who played in a varsity game before; and the other six got valuable experience tonight.
Gaffney, which will compete in the Class-AAAA football championship on Saturday, has four starters and two reserves who are still with the team.
Rock Hill coach Eric Rollings, however, knew that the ninth-ranked Bearcats would get all they wanted from the Indians, who boast a solid basketball tradition.
Gaffney is Gaffney; they always do a great job, Rolling said. Mark always does an outstanding job.
Rock Hill used a solid height advantage to pound the glass. Center Roderick Howell had six points on offensive putbacks, sparking the Bearcats to a 17-11 first-quarter lead. The Bearcats maintained their dominance on the glass and led by eight, 25-17, midway through the second.
Gaffney, which was led by Tee Hardy with 25 points, stayed close. Hardy ended the quarter with six points, including an offensive rebound near the halftime buzzer, cutting the deficit to five, 31-26.
At several points in the third, Rock Hill threatened to blow the game open. Deonte Fleming netted a free throw for a 42-33 advantage. The Bearcats, who led 42-37 after three quarters, went on a 7-2 run to open a 49-40 lead with 7:00 remaining.
However, Indians guard Hudson Moss warmed up with four 3-pointers down the stretch, with his final hoop from long range cutting the deficit to four at 59-55.
Rock Hill, however, got several crucial defensive plays in the closing minutes, resulting in layups and free-throw opportunities, which preserved the eight-point victory.
Our guys did a good job keeping their composure when the game got close late, Rollings said. Of course, we have a lot of work on. We turned the ball over too many times. But we will continue to work hard to get better.
Rock Hill 69, Gaffney 61
Rock Hill Nate Motley 13, Malik Crawford 3, Warren Vinson 9, Jaylen Reid 14, Roderick Howell 13, Jaleel Scott 2, Deante Fleming 8, Stephon Whitlock 7.
Gaffney Hudson Moss 12, Tee Smith 4, Larry Phillips 7, Tee Hardy 25, Derrick Dawkins 4, Hasten Mullinax 5, Daquan McNeil 4.
3-pointers Gaffney 4 (Moss 4), Rock Hill 1 (Motley 1). Team fouls Rock Hill 24, Gaffney 25. Fouled out Hudson (G), Smith (G).
Records: Rock Hill 1-0; Gaffney 0-1.