The Rock Hill Bearcats were unable to recover from an early knockout blow delivered by the Lancaster Bruins in Tuesday's crucial Region 3-AAAA contest.
Lancaster, the state's fourth-ranked team, sizzled in the early stages with a series of dunks, 3-point shots, and also a dazzling buzzer-beater at the end of the first.
The dazed Bearcats were unable to regroup and suffered their second straight defeat with a 75-44 loss.
Featuring Sindarious Thornwell, one of the state's premier players, the Bruins brought the crowd to its feet with four dunks during the first quarter, and two long-range 3-pointers.
As hot as the Bruins were in the early stages, the Bearcats were just as cold. Making matters worse, Bearcats ace J.J. Jones was whistled with his third foul near the end of the first quarter, and had to sit the remainder of the half.
The Bruins knew it was their night when Brien Clyburn caught an inbound pass with eight-tenths of a second remaining in the first quarter and sank an acrobatic shot as the horn sounded for a 22-9 lead.
The second quarter was more of the same with a two-handed stuff, alley-oop pass and dunk, and two more long-range 3-pointers as the Bruins built a 34-14 lead midway through the quarter.
Rock Hill did mount a slight comeback and was able to pull within 12 at 36-24 when Eric Robinson dribbled in the lane for a layup.
However, Lancaster, which led 39-25 at the half, came out of the locker room with the same intensity as the game started and built a 50-30 advantage after a deep 3-pointer from Thornwell and Alan Robinson's layup.
Bruins coach Ricardo Priester said the key to the victory was defense, which stymied the usually potent Bearcats offense.
"Rock Hill is a playoff team and we knew that we had to bring that type of effort, especially on defense," Priester said. "They have three players who are each capable of producing 20 points each; so we had to bring that type of defensive intensity against them."
Thornwell, who led all scorers with 20, agreed with his coach about the defensive focus.
"There was nothing said; we know that it is always about defense first; we just wanted to come out strong on defense. When we do that, the points will come."
Jones, who was plagued with the early foul trouble, was limited to only two 3-pointers for six points.
Lancaster 75, Rock Hill 44
Rock Hill -- Jamel Jones 6, Eric Robinson 13, Warren Vinson 3, Jaylen Reid 7,Roderick Howell 2, Montez McCullough 2, Jaleel Scott 1, Deonte Fleming 6, Reggie Boyd 4.
Lancaster - Alan Robinson 18, Sindarious Thornwell 20, KeAnthony Foster 12, Nate Bush 10, Demarcus Montgomery 2, Markevius Hall 4, Brien Clyburn 2, CD Pelham 7.
3-pointers -- Rock Hill 4 (Jones 2, Reid 1, Vinson 1), Lancaster 8 (Robinson 4, Thornwell 2, Bush 2). Team fouls -- Rock Hill 15, Lancaster 16. Fouled out -- None.
Records: Lancaster 18-2, 4-1 in Region 3-AAAA; Rock Hill 15-4, 2-3.