It was a classic case of teacher vs. pupil.
Fort Mill coach Dwayne Hartsoe spent several seasons on the sidelines at South Pointe when current Stallions coach Melvin Watson was hired as an assistant.
Hartsoe returned to the South Pointe gymnasium on Monday night and attempted to employ an effective strategy to offset the Stallions’ athleticism.
The Yellow Jackets’ game plan nearly worked, but in the end, South Pointe’s speed and leaping ability were too much to overcome in the 60-55 home victory.
“We thought that our only chance was to force them to shoot from the outside,” Hartsoe said. “We were active in our zone the whole night, but they just play above the rim, and that is a place where we cannot play.”
The Stallions (13-1, 6-1 Region 3 4A) featured six highlight dunks, three each from forward Anthony Johnson and center P.J. Heath, who returned to the lineup after a two-game absence.
Perhaps, the most emphatic slam came at a crucial time for the Stallions, who saw Fort Mill pull to within two, 31-29, with 4:56 remaining in the third quarter.
Johnson soared above the rim on a missed shot, cuffed the rebound, and thundered the ball through the hoop in a simultaneous motion. Two possessions later, Johnson caught an alley-oop pass from Isiah Rodney for another slam. Then, on the next trip down, Heath caught another rebound for a dunk and a 41-31 lead.
Fort Mill, however, did not go away. Heath, who finished with 16 points, drove the baseline for a score to put the Stallions ahead 51-39 with less than five minutes remaining.
The Yellow Jackets answered with Devan Thacker scoring on an offensive rebound, and Rylan Wells sank two free throws to pull to 51-43.
With less than two minutes remaining, South Pointe went back up 10, 57-47, on a Tay Blake free throw. The Yellow Jackets countered with Harrison Lancaster draining a jumper and Wells connecting with a 3-pointer.
Following another dunk from Johnson, Thacker was fouled and went to line to sink one-of-two attempts, and Wells grabbed an offensive rebound and scored to cut the deficit to four at 59-55 with 3.8 seconds remaining.
Devan Pearson was fouled on the in-bounds and added the final point from the line to preserve the five-point Stallions win.
“Fort Mill did a good job to remain within arm distance the entire contest,” Watson said. “We were ready to make runs, but each time, they would make 3-pointers to stay in the game.
“Coach Hartsoe had his guys well prepared, but we appeared to be a step slow in a few spots. But I felt we show patience offensively and executed our offensive down the stretch.”
South Pointe 60,
Fort Mill 55
Fort Mill — Mike Scurlock 3, Rylan Wells 10, Matt Ferguson 10, John Paris 4, Mitchell Johnson 2, Harrison Lancaster 13, Devan Thacker 13.
South Pointe — Tay Blake 7, P.J. Heath 16, Devin Pearson 1, Anthony Johnson 28, Marveon Mobley 3, Montez McCullough 3, Isiah Rodney 2.
3-pointers — Fort Mill 6 (Lancaster 2, Ferguson 2, Wells 1, Scurlock 1), South Pointe 2 (Blake 2). Team fouls — Fort Mill 14, South Pointe 11. Fouled out — Ferguson, Lancaster (FM).
Records: Fort Mill 8-9, 3-4 in Region 3-AAAA; South Pointe 13-1, 6-1.