There will be a new state champion in South Carolina high school basketball in 2013. The Rock Hill Bearcats made sure of that Wednesday night with a heart-pounding 60-55 overtime home victory over the defending state champion Gaffney.
“We’re playing the defending state champs,” Rock Hill coach Eric Rollings said. “I heard a crazy stat that they’ve been in the Upper State or state final eight of the last 10 years. We try to model our program after theirs. To me, they are the staple in this state.”
Bearcats’ senior guard Nate Motley hit 5-of-6 free throws in the extra period and 8-of-10 for the game to lead all scorers with 21 points. He had 12 in the fourth period.
Senior forward Jaylen Reid scored six of his 18 points in overtime, including a monstrous three-pointer that got rim, backboard and fell in to bring Rock Hill within 53-52 at the 2:49 mark in OT.
The Bearcats had to answer the bell after a shocking end to regulation.
After Rock Hill senior forward Jaleel Scott blocked the shot underneath of Kerry Williams, Motley hit two free throws to put the Bearcats up 49-46.
On the Indians’ frantic possession on the other end, a foul was called on Motley as Tee Hardy shot a desperate three-pointer with 0.2 seconds left. Hardy calmly sank all three freebies without blinking an eye and the sizable Gaffney contingency erupted as the crowd was rewarded with bonus basketball.
“The call was made and we’ve got to forget about it and go play,” Rollings said. “And our kids responded. I saw our kids do some things that we haven’t done all year, getting on the floor for every loose ball. That’s what it’s going to take to win a state title.”
With the huge momentum boost, Hardy started the extra four minutes with two more charity tosses after Scott fouled out. After a Rock Hill miss, Williams scored his first bucket since recording Gaffney’s first eight points of the game, and the Indians led 53-49 before Reid’s clutch three.
It was a first-round match-up neither team was probably pleased with having to play.
Gaffney Coach Mark Huff said the Indians finished in a four-way tie for second in Region 2 but lost tie-breakers to end up a five seed.
“All good things come to an end,” Huff said.
Scott may have played his best game for Rock Hill with the huge block, 14 points, and hard work on the boards.
After Reid’s three in the extra period and a Gaffney turnover, Motley hit two free throws on the other end to put the Bearcats up one.
With Rock Hill leading 57-55, senior forward Deonte Fleming wrestled the ball away from Williams with 22 ticks left and Rock Hill iced it from the line.
The Bearcats will travel to second-ranked Hillcrest of Simpsonville Saturday for a 7 p.m. game.
Rock Hill 60, Gaffney 55 OT
Rock Hill - Nate Motley 21, Jaylen Reid 18, Jaleel Scott 14, Deonte Fleming 4, Warren Vinson 2, Stephon Whitlock 1.
Gaffney - Tee Hardy 16, DaQuan McNeil 13, Kerry Williams 10, Shaq Davidson 8, Cobby McDowell 3, Tee Smith 3, Hylek Foster 2.
3-pointers - Rock Hill 3 (Reid 2, Motley 1) Gaffney 4 (Hardy 2, Davidson 1, Smith 1)
Team fouls - Rock Hill 13, Gaffney 20. Fouled out - Scott (RH)
Records: Rock Hill 19-7, Gaffney 14-10