The Richland Northeast Cavaliers defeated visiting Clover 61-48 in Class AAAA state playoff opener Wednesday, ending a string of three consecutive first-round losses and securing their first postseason success since 2006.
"It may not have been the way you'd want to draw it up, but at this point in the season we'll take the win," RNE coach Jason Powell said.
"We hadn't won a playoff game in a while, so it was real good to get that money off our back."
The final score does not convey the momentum swings in the fourth quarter. RNE ended the third with a buzzer-beating, 3-point heave from near mid-court by point guard Quinn Martin that expanded the Cavalier lead to 47-33.
Powell, however, had seen this act before.
Instead of landing the knockout blow, RNE lost focus. Clover's zone press created turnovers and the Blue Eagles went on a 15-0 run to take a 48-47 lead with 3:54 to go.
Aaron Miller and Xavier Wiley fired in 3-pointers and Darian Harris tallied a three-point play during the surge. The Cavaliers went seven consecutive possessions without scoring, turning the ball over five times.
Just when it looked as if RNE had lost it, 6-foot-5 junior Travis Hammonds drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 3:42 remaining. It gave the Cavaliers back the lead and ignited a 15-0 burst to close out the game.
Another plus for the Cavaliers (17-9) was balanced scoring. Nine players contributed points with Hammonds and Devante Anderson scoring 11 points apiece. Five different players combined to hit eight 3-pointers. Anderson knocked down two of the 3-balls, as did Mike Murphy.
Richland Northeast travels to face Region 2 champion Dorman on Friday in Roebucks. The Upstate Cavaliers opened the playoffs with a 67-37 pasting of Laurens last night.
Darian Harris and Darius Harris scored 11 points apiece for Clover, which finished 16-8.