Throughout the season, the Indian Land Warriors have embraced the role of underdog, utilizing heart and sheer determination to fight their way to a 21-9 record. But on Saturday evening, the Warriors ran into a juggernaut, the defending 2-AA state champion Keenan Raiders.
And this time, Indian Land's iron will wasn't enough, as they fell to Keenan 65-36 in the Warriors' first upper state championship game since 1973.
"We worked hard all season, and I never really believed that we were never a Cinderella story," said Warrior star guard Terrell Rogers, who averaged 29 points a game this season. "But today Keenan played harder than us, and their talent outmatched ours."
Though Rogers scored 18 points in Saturday's loss, it was his shooting performance that spelled trouble for Indian Land early on. He was 6-of-24 as the Warriors struggled for offensive production throughout the game. The Raider defense consistently made Rogers uncomfortable, forcing him into turnovers as they frequently double teamed him, daring the Warriors to produce another scoring threat.
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Indian Land has grown accustomed to being undersized this season, but Keenan's size advantage frequently overwhelmed the Warriors' front court. Raider forward/center Quinton Johnson, at 6-foot-5, was a force in the paint from the beginning, scoring a game high 22 points, including nine in the fourth quarter. Also stellar on the evening was Keenan point guard Eric Washington, whose eight assists spread the floor for the Raiders and kept the Indian Land defense guessing.
Keenan took a 12-point lead heading into the third quarter, but Indian Land fought back, if only for a few minutes. For a two-minute stretch midway through the third quarter, Indian Land went on an 8-0 run, complimented by 5-foot-5 eighth-grader Darnell Rogers, who hit two consecutive three pointers to cut the Raider lead to five. But Keenan's Kiante Curenton hit one of his own from beyond the arc, and the rout was soon on from there.
After the game, the Warriors received a standing ovation from the many Indian Land fans in attendance. Also after the game, coach Nate Smith expressed his pride in an Indian Land basketball program that made significant strides this season.
"You can't teach heart, it comes from within," Smith said. "And not only did we show what kind of heart we had this season, we also gained respect as well."
Keenan 65 Indian Land 36
Indian Land -- Terrell Rogers 18 Darnell Rogers 6 Jarrell Robinson 4 Hayden Sawyer 2 Rashid McGriff 2 Cameron Davis 2 Marty Cauthen 2. Keenan -- Quinton Johnson 22 Marcus Stroman 10 Erick Tisdale 10 Kiante Curenton 9 Eric Washington 6 Eric Hopkins 3 Braxton Andrews 3 Trey Stroman 2
3-pointers -- Indian Land 4 (Rogers 2 Rogers 2), Keenan 4 (Stroman 2 Currenton 1 Hopkins 1). Team fouls -- Indian Land 14, Keenan 13. Fouled out -- Indian Land: Jarrell Robinson Records: Visitor 21-9 Region 12-2; Home 23-3 Region 10-1